Quote of the Month

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

Friday, September 6, 2013

Shhhhh...Can You Keep A Secret?

Truthfully, I can't remember a time when I did not like pizza.  Growing up I can still remember the thrill of knowing a pizza night was close at hand when the Chef Boyardee box showed up in the pantry after Mom went grocery shopping.  As I got older my homemade pizza dough from scratch was a household favorite.

Say the word pizza party to a group of students and watch what happens; eyes will light up and a quiet buzz will spread around the room.  The team that brought readers Those Darn Squirrels (Clarion Books, 2008), Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door (Clarion Books, 2011), Those Darn Squirrels Fly South (Clarion Books, 2012) and Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012) have a new title guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.  Secret Pizza Party (Dial Books for Young Readers) is a ring-tailed rascal's quest for this mouth-watering, gourmet, doughy delight.

Poor Raccoon.
All he wants in life is some pizza.

Peering into pizzeria windows and invading trash cans, does not seem to be working in his favor.  As the narrator extols the virtues of all things pizza with apologies to the forlorn, frustrated Raccoon, a plan is suggested, a plan which must not be revealed to anyone.

Lest Raccoon needs a refresher on the true meaning of secret, the conspiratorial voice explains to him and the reader the advantages of keeping mum.  There is one problem though; how to get the pizza delivered to Raccoon.  I mean...after all...he is wanted for pizza theft.  But what's a party without the main course?!

Who's that in the trench coat, boots, wide-brimmed hat and glasses?  Shhhh...it's Raccoon.  He's going in to pick up a pizza.  Money?  Wallet?  He's got to run now on what promises to be a challenging, rather than a perfect, route back to his home inside the tree trunk.

Now it's time for the secret pizza party.  Wait a minute...there's the sound of voices, many voices, bright lights and a distinctive odor coming from outside Raccoon's home.  And he's off...

Adam Rubin reels readers right into the story with his snappy narration; a voice acting in partnership with Raccoon while providing readers with the inside scoop.  Lead by contemporary word choices loaded with humor we willingly follow the path, collaborators in the plan.  His descriptions of the pizza, his comparisons between regular and secret, the rambling escape route and the surprising conclusion combine to make the best kind of story; feeding our desire for a fun-filled adventure.  Here is a single example.  

Hot diggity dog, our pizza party is going to be so much fun!
Call the pizza man and tell him to bring over his absolute finest pizza pie.

Hang on a minute, you don't want the delivery guy to know where you live.

One of my favorite things about the artwork of Dan Salmieri is how his details convey and encompass the theme of a story.  The front jacket and cover done in shades of black featuring Raccoon in his disguise, eyes looking straight at the reader, finger to his mouth asking for quiet, the title done in shapes of pizza in front of the darkened pizza parlor, match the mood of secrecy.  The back jacket and cover feature a wanted poster of Raccoon, REWARD: 1 FREE PIE (NO TOPPINGS), nails holding it in place.  The opening and closing endpapers are patterned in slices of cheese pizza on a white background.

Using watercolor, gouache, and color pencil Salmieri alternates between black and white backgrounds, a variety of picture sizes, double page, single page and smaller vignettes, with his signature characters.  It's in looking at the eyes, the long thin arms, body motions and facial emotions, readers will be hard pressed not to burst into laughter.  Raccoon face pressed against the glass of the pizza restaurant watching people eat,  the decor in his abode, pizza graphics on the walls, a bedspread covered in whole pizzas, a lampshade in the shape of a pizza slice, and the page without text showing him full figure in his undercover garb, are top-notch hilarity.

I love the minds that pair raccoons, those notorious nocturnal raiders, with a favorite food.  Secret Pizza Party written by Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri is a passion, no... an obsession, gone wild.  I know readers will enjoy hearing this story read to them with the same frequency they enjoy eating pizza, every meal, every day.

Please visit the author and illustrator websites linked to their names above.


  1. Oh yum! Thanks for featuring this mouthwatering story. Must get my hands on a copy :).

    1. You're welcome, Jama. You are going to love this! Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri create books loaded with fun. Their food books have me grinning from beginning to end.

  2. This looks hilarious. I think even my grade-schooler will like this!

    1. It is hilarious, Sonia. Every time I read it I laugh out loud. Trust me, readers are going to love this.