Dessert First: Hallie Durand
by Hallie Durand (Author), Christine Davenier (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 7-10
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Atheneum (May 19, 2009)
What to expect: Desserts, Schools, Restaurants, Family Life
I don’t think you’ll be hearing any rejections from readers with a title like this: Dessert First. As a lover of dessert, I judged this book by its title and cover. I knew I was going to enjoy it! I should probably mention that I received a copy of this book with a lovely little chocolate cake treat — ingenious marketing. With chocolate flowing through my veins I was destined to be a happy reader. However, the little treat was devoured long before I actually had a chance to read this book … lo and behold I was still a very happy reader, even without the mood enhancing effects of chocolate!
Dessert Schneider is a spirited third-grader. Durand’s recipe for her character is good-natured with a little bit of cheeky, which has made for a completely identifiable leading role for the intended audience. When Dessert’s class is encouraged by their teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody, to march to one’s own drummer, Dessert takes us on a journey of contemplation that leads to sacrifice and remorse. During this story many entertaining events take place which include: convincing her family that dessert should be eaten before supper, and despite a warning from her mother to “Stay away from the Double-Ds” (Double-Decker Chocolate Bars) she manages to devour the whole box. It is the latter that carries this well-paced story to a wonderful ending that sends a subtle message of encouragement to children: always communicate with you parents. Award-winning artist Christine Daveneir helps lift the story with scrumptious illustrations rendered in pen and ink washes, her artwork gives extra flavor. I enjoyed the visual of Dessert Schneider’s signed name — it’s punctuated with an exclaiming maraschino cherry. This book is SWEET!
A very comparable series is Sarah Pennypacker’s Clementine. Durand and Pennypacker have both created believable third-grade characters that have wonderfully supportive families and school teachers.
Add this book to your collection: Dessert First