Denys Cazet's The Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Great combination of scary and silly
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Old Man Wilkerson doesn't like much, but he certainly likes a good pie. That is, until he suddenly dies face first in one.
Now he simply craves them.
Ghostly Mr. Wilkerson, who wasn't very good looking in life, is downright zombie-like in death. And nothing upsets this former human being like a pie that isn't perfect.
It's the questionable fortune of Jack and his grandmother to have moved into the old Wilkerson house. You see, Mrs. Wilkerson buried Mr. in the old pumpkin patch out back.
Grandma likes to bake, but clearly she doesn't meet the high standards set by Mrs. Wilkerson. When she endeavors to bake a pumpkin pie on Halloween, Mr. Wilkerson makes his first, grumpy, appearance.
Looking indeed like someone who has been buried awhile, and with a pie fork still sticking out of his skull, he comes to check out Grandma's effort and finds it wanting. He starts bellowing demands that it be improved upon...or else.
It must be round
and brown as toast,
or I'll haunt this house
a hungry ghost.
In Denys Cazet's world, even the undead are critics.
Jack is rightfully scared, but Grandma - who knows she's not exactly Julia Child - recognizes Old Man Wilkerson as pretty much all "huff and puff" and very little "blow your house down." (In fact, you might surmise that she sees a little bit of Grandpa in him.)
So Grandma keeps baking, and Wilkerson keeps demanding better...in verse.
A pumpkin pie
without whipped cream?
It's enough to make
a dead man scream.
A ghost story picture book: The Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Author-illustrator Cazet strikes just the right chord for the picture book set, with the scary images nicely counterbalanced by the silly subject matter and Grandma's refusal to be bullied. We're treated to an age appropriate Halloween reality in which ghosts exist, but "big kids" learn not to be scared of them.
The Perfect Pumpkin Pie is a perfectly portioned serving of scary.
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