Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cooking Up Dreams

On any given day children can be seen puttering in the sand and water along a beach; splashing, digging with shovels, hauling treasures in their pails and designing masterpieces in the sand.  They crave fashioning mud pies in neighborhoods after a rain and from the earliest ages have more fun than anyone I know, playing with their food. (except perhaps for the infamous food fights in college) Given these observations it takes no stretch of the imagination to see them eager to extend those skills into the kitchen arena.

Can a young boy's flavorful fancies become a delicious reality?  Renowned Chef Tyler Florence has authored, with illustrations by author/illustrator Craig Frazier, a book, Tyler Makes Pancakes! (HarperCollins Children's Books, April 2012) inviting a younger reading audience to discover the excitement of whipping up a breakfast favorite.  Open the covers of this book to see how an enterprising child spends his morning, with great joy, gathering ingredients, mixing them together and cooking a parent-pleasing meal.

Awakening Tyler looks at his dog, Tofu, telling him of a true gourmet's dream he's had, flying through a pancake-filled space in a pancake spaceship.  At this point the little guy has a definite craving for pancakes.  Shopping list in hand, he sets off for the local market on his bike with his constant canine companion.

Mr. Jones, the grocer is more than willing to lend a helping hand.  As each of the items are gathered, eggs, buttermilk, butter, flour, blueberries and maple syrup, Tyler and readers discover the origins of each.  Homeward bound, Mr. Jones adds cantaloupe and bacon to the basket of goodies.

In the kitchen trading his baseball cap for a tall chef's hat, Tyler gets down to business.  Step by careful step the batter is mixed and ready for the pan.  Dad pops in just in time to assist at the stove.  One satisfied cook admires his golden stacks and already has plans for his next food creation.

Tyler Florence's passion for the culinary arts and his desire to make it accessible to children are evident in his careful, clear and simple storyline.  The one-way conversations Tyler has with Tofu are delightful.  Tyler's questions about each of the ingredients and Mr. Jones's patient, informative replies are easy to understand.

"What's next?" asked Mr. Jones.
"Buttermilk--whatever that is.  Is it butter, or is it milk?  Does it come from a butter cow?" asked Tyler.
"Nope. Buttermilk come from regular cows," said Mr. Jones.  "And guess what?  There is no butter in buttermilk!..."

Illuminating this tale of gastronomic goodness are the pure, pleasurable illustrations of Craig Frazier.  There is such warmth in every scene you can almost smell the pancakes cooking.  The two-tone toasty brown front and hearty blue back endpapers are peppered with ingredients, kitchen utensils and the occasional dog bone.  Within the book stark white pages highlight his colorful palette of blues, golden yellows, browns, reds, greens and spot colors of orange.

Some of his visuals extend across two pages but most are single pages highlighting the events of Tyler and Tofu.  Humor is evident in every sequence through the antics of the slightly chubby pooch; Tofu's dream is of landing on a celestial surface planting a flag with a bone in its center, on the ride to the market he dreams of riding in the basket instead of running alongside, or in the fruit section all we see is the tip of his nose balancing a single blueberry.  Each time Mr. Jones explains, he asks Tyler to imagine the place from where the food item comes.  Pictures show all three characters gathering in the fresh products. My favorite without question is taping the sap for maple syrup in the snowy woods of Vermont.

I was overjoyed to discover that Tyler Makes Pancakes! is the first of three planned books by Tyler Florence with pictures by Craig Frazier.  The inclusion of the recipe, Tyler's Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes, in the back along with some extra Did You Know? further facts is the perfect touch to an already delectable title.  This charming story invites investigations into other food item beginnings, states where products are grown, kitchen safety, or following a recipe.  I love this book more than pancakes; it's going in my cookbook collection.

To venture into the realm of Tyler Florence's culinary world follow the link embedded in his name above.  The first link to Craig Frazier is his main website.  The second link farther down is to his website devoted to his picture books.

This link is to the HarperCollins site where you can browse inside the book.  Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has two posts (maybe more) about the work of Craig Frazier here and here.  Enjoy the video below showcasing the book's release and more.


  1. What a fun post! I've been wanting to review this book for the longest time. Have you made the blueberry buttermilk pancakes yet? Yum! I'm excited about the next 2 books, too :).

  2. I'm looking forward to the next two books, too. Wouldn't it be fun to go to one of their book launches? These two seem to have a great working relationship. I have not made the pancakes yet. Perhaps tomorrow?