Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The pie time of year

Ugly Pie

Ugly Pie
By Lisa Wheeler
Harcourt, 32 pages
$16, ages 4 to 8

Not sure if it's close to Thanksgiving in Ol' Bear's woodland neighborhood. but whatever the calendar says, he wakes up this day with a powerful hunger for pie – "not just any pie. Ugly Pie." A check of kitchen reveals that the only ugly ingredient he has on hand is molasses, "so with a heap of hope and a hitch of his britches," he sets off to visit his neighbors.

Outside each house, a pleasing repetition comes into play. Ol' Bear's nose twitches and he says. "My-oh-my--oh-my. Do I smell Ugly Pie?"
Each neighbor has just baked another kind of beautiful pie – pumpkin, rhubarb, honey – and offers Ol' Bear a piece, but he's set on Ugly Pie. So the friends instead offer up whatever ugly ingredients they can scare up – wrinkled red raisins, sour green apples – and Ol' Bear continues his search.

As he walks he continues to sing a song that grows with each stop:
"Ruby raisins – not too dry,
sweet molasses, my-oh-my!
But I'm still itchin',
sniffin, wishin'
for some Ugly Pie!"

Eventually he realizes he's got exactly the right collection of ugly ingredients for a perfect Ugly Pie and commences to "a-choppin' and a-mixin.'"

The friends smell his pie and he's happy to share.

The rollicking text makes for a delightful read-aloud. (Maybe best not to be hungry when you do.) Wheeler's watercolor, acrylic and collage illustrations are enchanting. Ol' Bear is an endearingly rotund fellow. A great round belly bowls out between his red plaid shirt and blue jeans. He's no doubt gearing up for hibernation season. Children will enjoy following his journey through his neighborhood and spotting the small woodland creatures that abound.

Wheeler includes a recipe for Ugly Pie, which sounds delicious. I think I'll try it for Thanksgiving.

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