I don't remember the last time I've had as much fun with a book as I did with Cooking With Henry and Elliebelly, written by Carolyn Parkhurst and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. I love Dan's work which is why I originally picked up the book. But after two pages of this book I was hooked. I couldn't put it down. The dialogue is so true to life. The concept and banter is so funny and the characters are pitch perfect.
Henry (5) and Elliebelly (2) are doing a cooking show for us today. Henry is the main cook and Elliebelly is "helping". In the book they are making raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon. If you aren't intrigued by this point, you have no sense of humor. Henry is trying hard to be serious and present this as a real cooking show even though we can see him piling toys and crayons into the bowl as his ingredients. Elliebelly on the other hand is trying to help by forcing Henry to wear a pirate hat, having her dolly swim in the waffle batter, and arguing constantly with her brother. The book follows the pair from start to finish on their "recipe" with a surprise from Mom at the end.
Even though it's the illustration that originally caught my eye, the dialogue in this book is what will make me buy it. It's so real and it's so hilarious. And those are clearly related. Henry and Elliebelly react to each other like every brother and sister pair I've ever met. They argue, they fight, they tattle. They also pause for technical issues (a crying sister), play a theme song (with a broom for a guitar), and have a commercial (buy buy buy now now now). They two are just overflowing with enthusiasm. But that doesn't mean they have to get along. The banter between them is what makes this book.
Dan Yaccarino's illustrations add to the fun and humor. I knew I was in for a treat when I found Henry face palming himself on the title page. He just looks like the classic older brother who's reached the end of his tether with his younger sister. Like much of Dan's work, the illustrations are all about shape and color. He adds little jokes to each page (like the cat peeking out of the fake oven and the dog covering his eyes during the theme song). He makes it clear that the kids are playing. And this book makes it seem like both Dan and Carolyn are playing. This is just one of the silliest and most enjoyable books I've read this year. Well worth a read or two or three.
Also check out the trailer. Well worth a watch.