Do you read dust jackets? Be honest. Do you? Do I? If I am honest, only sometimes. Last fall Jill Morgan sent me a box of some of her favorite Purple House Press books hoping that I would like them as much as she does. It turns out that I do. I. Really. Do.
When the box arrived, many of the titles were unknown to me, so I took the time to read the dust jackets so I could decide in which order to best enjoy these little treasures. When I got to Pickle-Chiffon Pie by Roger Bradfield, the dust jacket made me laugh so hard that my children came from other rooms to find out what I was enjoying. They made me read the dust jacket aloud to them, not once, but many times.
Quoted with permission from the publisher:
Making Pickle-Chiffon Pie
2 cups imagination
3 teaspoons humor
Exciting illustrations, one per page
At least one dragon
2 tablespoons silliness
Combine: 1 beautiful princess with 1 hero, well seasoned
A pinch of moral values
Mix together in a lively plot
Pickle-Chiffon pie is a story without a villian. No fighting, no bloodshed, but still exciting and fast-moving. It is a tale that stretches the imagination: the reader must accept a juggling lion (six cans of root beer at once!) and a sixteen-footed Gazoo. Not a hard assignment for a child, but perhaps a bit more difficult for a worldly grown-up.
Take heart, all you staid elders. The story has elements running throughout that should appeal to adults as well as children (how ‘bout mice that paint in the fashion of Picasso, Matisse, Whistler, Grant Wood and even Toulouse Lautrec?) because the author knew that if a story is a REALLY A GOOD ONE, parents everywhere would be commanded by their children to read it aloud again and again. And maybe even once more…
Oh how we giggled through this creative summary written by an author who really understood his book and what people loved about it. When Pickle-Chiffon Pie was published in 1967, the picture book had no dust jacket. When Purple House Press republished it in 2004, Bradfield wrote the above recipe. He also wrote his bio which is equally interesting. In it, Bradford explains that Pickle-Chiffon Pie was the most beloved of his books, and that he considered it a real treat to get letters from children whose parents enjoyed the book in its earlier printings.
The crayon and marker style illustration in this book is vivid and fun while revealing the whimsy and creativity of the story. If Mr. Rogers’ Land of Make-Believe had been a cartoon, I think this is the style of cartoon it would have been.
In the recipe above, Bradfield mentions “one hero, well seasoned.” I think this is one of my favorite aspects of this story. A king wishes to find a husband for his princess. Employing the standard method of testing prospective suitors, the king sends each candidate out on a quest. Unlike his competitors, our hero fails in the quest because to succeed would have required him to do harm, either to the princess or others. Instead of returning to the king with the requisite token of success, he confesses that he has returned with nothing. Puzzled, the king invites the hero to explain his reasoning, and when he does, we get a good lesson in humility and wisdom without it feeling like moral pap.
The story is funny. And it is creative. And it is re-readable.
About ten years ago, Jill Morgan was working with Roger Bradfield on the republishing of Pickle-Chiffon Pie. In one of his letters to her, he sent Jill a few pages of creative scribbling. Jill enjoyed those pages and tucked them away in a drawer. A few years later, Jill found the pages and sent them back to him telling him how much she enjoyed rediscovering them. Together they agreed that those scribbles were the making of a sequel!
In The Pickle Chiffon Pie Olympics, Bradford treats us to another charming and funny tale. But, my favorite part of this book is…. You guessed it. The dust jacket! Bradford was having so much fun with this book cover that he signed it, “Jolly Roger.”
Again, here is another treat from “Jolly Roger Bradford”:
A long time ago (probably before you were born), I wrote a book called Giants Come in Different Sizes. It told, in part, of peasant farmers whose chief crop was hamburgers. Naturally, they grew on hamburger bushes.
It surprised me that some readers doubted the very existence of hamburger bushes, even though I had drawn a picture of a whole field of them (in full color) for the book.
Have we become a nation of doubters? Why must folks question everything? Some readers of this book have even expressed doubt that pickles grow on trees in vast orchards. I ask you – how else could the queen in this tale have enough ingredients to make so many of her world famous pies?
Like all conscientious writers, I sought confirmation… I wrote to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Eventually they wrote back:
We apologize for the seven month delay to your query. (We at the USDA are very busy.) Our research shows that pickle trees are as authentic as hamburger bushes.
Sincerely, Wesley Forbisher
Assistant to the Secretary
What more do you want than that confirmation from an official government agency?
If you have ever read A. A. Milne’s classic, Once On A Time, you will have a sense for Jolly Roger’s style. He invites the reader into the ridiculous while telling a great fairy tale that pokes fun at things that should be poked fun at. With a good sense of humor, wholesome ideas, and creative storytelling, I am a big fan of Jolly Roger Bradfield. I am particularly grateful that Purple House Press brought Pickle-Chiffon Pie back into print and that Jill had the wisdom to pursue The Pickle-Chiffon Pie Olympics.
These books from Purple House Press would make marvelous birthday gifts for children aged 5-12. And they make great family reading aloud!