Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ella Takes the Cake

I’ve been a little lax in posting things lately. It’s not that I haven’t been reading some fantastic children’s books. It’s just that things have been unusually busy and I’ve had trouble finding time to write. I’ll try to get back into a much more regular schedule this week. I have a ton of great books to talk about.

The first of these was a wonderful little story called Ella Takes the Cake. You have to love a book that combines a spunky little elephant character, a bicycle adventure, and cakes. The book, written and illustrated by Carmela and Steven D’Amico, follows Ella, a little elephant who wants desperately to help at her mother’s bakery. But she’s too young to either bake or help customers and she’s bored of sweeping the floor. So when the deliveryman forgets one of the cakes that needs to be delivered, Ella offers to take it in a wagon attached to her bicycle. She sets off on her journey but is sidetracked by a friend who wants a ride. Her friend then offers to deliver some library books for a townsperson. When the road becomes too long the friend bails out. And that’s when Ella’s problems really begin. She delivers the books but the cart, parked on a hill, breaks and rolls down the hill. The cake and cart roll all the way through town until a drawbridge operator stops it. Finally Ella is able to get back on the road and delivers the cake on time. She arrives back at the bakery to have her mother ask her for help on baking a cake.

The character of Ella is what made this book a treat for me. She’s industrious, generous, and determined. As the last line states, “…because more than anything else, Ella loved to help.” We see how downcast she is when her mother tells her she can’t help. She wants to be doing things. Although she protests a bit when her friend wants a ride it is more because of the lack of room in the cart, not because of the extra work. The same with the library books. When the regular deliveryman catches up with Ella and offers to take the cake, she declines saying she would like to finish what she started. She is genuinely worried about doing a good job. Belinda (the friend), on the other hand, is portrayed as lazy. When Ella protests the lack of room in the cart, Belinda just climbs in. After Belinda offers to take the books to the library, she calls the library boring (the horror, the horror J) and backs out. She’s much more interested in playing than doing work. Ella on the other hand is just a perfect little lady.

The illustrations in this book are simply beautiful. Ella is adorable in her little blue jumper and her lucky red hat. But it is the surrounding landscapes and cityscapes that are done in lush detail. The bakery is warm and inviting, with morning light slanting through the windows at the beginning of the story. The ocean, which appears in many of the shots, is a vivid blue, which makes me want to live there. Although that could also be because of the cute buildings, stately library, and tropical palm trees. Steven D’Amico, the illustrator, uses bold colors to create images that draw readers in. We find Ella cute because of Steven’s cute little drawings, but we love her because of her winning personality. This book completely won me over. I understand that it is a series. I’ll be looking for more of these. A wonderful little girl in a beautiful world. Great book.

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