Hi, everyone! Hope you had a great Christmas. Mine was quiet and simple by design, since my son has to keep his leg up for now. My in-laws came over. We had chicken crepes Florentine and shrimp with cocktail sauce. Did the usual Christmas-y stuff. Lots of delicious food. Too much, really. Not a bad problem to have, though.
Speaking of “delicious”, my son and I have been reading a book at bedtime called (guess what?) The Search For Delicious. Written and illustrated by Natalie Babbitt of Tuck Everlasting fame, The Search For Delicious is part fantasy, part fairy tale, and all intriguing.
Instead of the usual scene-setting, Delicious kicks off rather mysteriously with what Babbitt calls “the oldest days” and an inquisitive dwarf who discovers a spring. The other dwarfs are super-stoked over this and build a springhouse to protect the find, but the spring quickly grows into a lake and puts the house underwater. Soon the lake is populated by various creatures, including a mermaid named Ardis. The dwarfs befriend her, even making her a doll out of stones. In turn, Ardis promises to watch over the springhouse, whose door opens and closes by blowing a special whistle. As inevitably happens, things go bad. The whistle is lost, leaving the springhouse shut, with Ardis’s beloved doll trapped inside.
Fast-forward to many years later. DeCree, the Prime Minister, has been charged by the King to write a dictionary. Everything goes swimmingly until DeCree gets to the word, delicious, but since everyone has a different idea of what it means, the castle is in an uproar. The King likes apples. The Queen likes pudding. DeCree likes fried fish. On and on it goes until the King decides to ask his people what they think delicious means. He sends Gaylen, DeCree’s adopted son, to take a poll of the kingdom.
Gaylen sets out with Marrow, his faithful steed, and enjoys meeting and sharing meals with people all over the kingdom while he polls them about their favorite foods. What a shock, though–there’s a lot more to Delicious than Gaylen traveling. One member of the King’s court, a crusty fellow appropriately named Hemlock, goes off in a huff when the King doesn’t serve his favorite food–nuts–at dinner. Hemlock is no one’s friend to begin with, but after this incident he resolves to yank the throne away from the king. The reader gets the first inkling of Hemlock’s wicked intentions when Gaylen bites into an apple only to find a nut jammed into it. Gaylen chalks it up to a prank, but Hemlock isn’t joking around. Part of his plan involves riding ahead of Gaylen, unbeknownst to him at first, in order to spread lies about the king’s little survey. As a result, Gaylen is met everywhere by people who think the king is out to ban certain foods. Since many of them are farmers, they fear their livelihoods are in danger and are willing to fight the king on it. In spite of having the king’s royal seal on Marrow’s saddle, not many believe Gaylen when he tries to put the rumors to rest.
Through it all, Gaylen hears snatches of song and story about Ardis, the mermaid. He also acquires a whistle from a minstral that he wears around his neck. As Delicious progresses, more and more of the pieces of the story come together. It’s a wee bit maddening for the reader because they know more about Ardis than Gaylen does, and every time a new bit is revealed, it’s hard not to leap (or at least sit up) in recognition. My son and I all along the way keep asking, “When is Gaylen going to get it?” Like the masterful storyteller she is, however, Babbitt draws the suspense out long enough until the plot is thick enough to slice, and it’s fun to see it build.
My son dragged his feet when I told him we should read it, but now he begs for more whenever I close the book. I can’t blame him for that. The Search For Delicious is beautifully crafted and gets the brain working. It also gets the mouth watering.