Quote of the Month

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Taste Of Making A Difference

There has never been another as delectable as it was.  It was so creamy, rich, and smooth your senses sighed in bliss.  The recipe came from my grandmother.  My mother kept it in a special place.  Handwritten on a single card, the process had several steps, took hours, and a strong arm.

We turned a crank which spun a metal container with paddles inside.  This metal container was inside a wooden bucket.  Between the bucket and metal container was a perfect fusion of salt and ice.  Inside the metal container was a mix of ingredients which made the best homemade ice cream I have ever tasted.

Due to the cost of the ingredients, the making of this ice cream was limited.  Nevertheless, a fondness for this food was firmly formed from the time I was a little girl.  Fortunately for me and a lot of other people, two others were developing an appetite for this tasty cool treat.  The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution (Abrams Books For Young Readers, May 10, 2022) written by Lisa Robinson with illustrations by Stacy Innerst tells the tale of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, their friendship, their business, and their pursuit of social activism.  This lively, humorous story in words and artwork will appeal to readers senses' as surely as every lick and spoonful of their favorite flavor of ice cream.

Close your eyes and imagine holding an ice cream cone.

We are next encouraged to wonder how it tastes.  Of what does it remind us?  Is it chocolate or Wavy Gravy?  Where does the name Wavy Gravy originate?

We meet Ben and Jerry in 1963 when they are twelve years old.  Ben favors art and Jerry favors science, but they enjoy other things.  They both love ice cream.  In fact one year, Jerry tells jokes to customers while Ben drives an ice cream truck.

After high school and college their paths diverge until one day they reconnect.  They want to start their own business.  A bagel business idea is not feasible, but ice cream making makes more sense.  They brainstorm the best place to locate their shop.

They rent an abandoned gas station which needs both their efforts and the skill of a plumber to fix.  Combining their talents, they create a mixture for the best-tasting ice cream.  Ben & Jerry's opens on May 5, 1978.  Is it smooth sailing until now?  No.  You won't believe how they get the right size pieces of toffee for Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch.  Pillsbury threatens to pull their ice cream products in stores that sell Ben & Jerry's ice cream. What?!  We know who wins.  

They ask customers to give them ice cream name suggestions.  Some work, others end up in the Flavor Graveyard.  Still more are a reflection of their beliefs about social justice.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield believe they are responsible to their employees, their community, society and our planet.  To this end the Ben & Jerry's Foundation exists today.  Perhaps knowing this is what makes Ben & Jerry's ice cream a memorable frozen delight.

Author Lisa Robinson begins this nonfiction narrative by appealing directly to us with an invitation. (She also uses this invitation to fashion a pleasing conclusion.) She continues by explaining those things Ben and Jerry enjoy as twelve year old guys in the early sixties.  Specific incidents and details throughout the book bring this duo and the development of their dream to life for readers.  Word choices relative to ice cream and conversational sentences along with liberal measures of humor keep you turning pages as fast as you can . . . and then you read it again.  Here is a passage.

Still more challenges churned their way---like how to make their
flavors stand out.  There were already so many kinds of ice cream for
sale!  What if they dreamed up fabulous flavors with cool names, like
Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash?

They welcomed customers' ideas, too.  An anonymous postcard arrived
suggesting "Cherry Garcia," named after a popular musician, Jerry
Garcia.  The cherry ice cream with fudge flakes quickly became a hit.

When you look at the front, right side, of the dust jacket, you see all the interested parties, Ben and Jerry, ice cream consumers, and a cow.  This cow and others are featured throughout the book to tell ice cream jokes embedded in the images and as a tribute to their importance in Ben and Jerry's venture.  The title text is varnished.  To the left, on the back, an interior illustration is used.  It shows Ben and Jerry and three cows seated at a round table.  One cow's back is to us.  The other is wearing glasses and reading some papers.  The other is licking an ice cream cone as it reads its papers.  Ben is speaking.  Colorful clouds above them mirror their thoughts.

On the book case a field of beautifully blended greens supplies the background for a cow leaning down and chewing grass.  The cow's body extends across the back and front with the cow facing right.  Three ice cream cones are positioned on the left and on the right.

The opening and closing endpapers are a brilliant magenta.  Ben and Jerry standing next to each other, and a cow at the bottom are collectively holding a sign with the text for the title page.  These images rendered in

watercolor, ink, and Photoshop

by Stacy Innerst are a creative and comical combination of single and double-page pictures.

As evidenced by the particular elements included in the visuals, Stacy Innerst did research on this twosome and the time period in which they grew as individuals and in which their ice cream success heightened.  Careful readers will notice the style of the bicycles the boys rode and the cards attached on a front wheel to make a well-known noise, the attire worn by Ben and Jerry and the "groovy" sunglasses in the final double-page picture.  The mailman delivering a postcard bears a striking resemblance to a famous musician.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is of the ice cream truck the two worked in one summer.  The truck spans from left to right with the front of it on the right.  On the left side, Jerry is leaning out a window handing a cone to a child while telling a joke.  On the right side, Ben sits behind the wheel of the truck.  In the lower, right-hand corner is the upper portion of a smiling cow telling two ice cream jokes highlighted in a speech balloon.

You'll be heading to the freezer or the closest grocery store after reading The Sweetest Scoop Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution written by Lisa Robinson with artwork by Stacy Innerst.  The more we understand why people do what they do, the more we are inspired by their accomplishments.  At the conclusion of the book is a one-page Author's Note followed by a two-page Timeline and a page of Sources.  You will want to add this title to both your professional and personal collections.  (I'm going to start snacking on Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy as soon as this post is completed.)

To learn more about Lisa Robinson and Stacy Innerst and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Lisa Robinson has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Stacy Innerst has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  Lisa Robinson is interviewed about this title at Jena Benton's Simply 7 and Maria Marshall's The Picture Book BuzzStacy Innerst is interviewed about this title at Picture Book Builders.

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