02 January 2012

Review: Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Award-winning baker Cupcake has a best friend, Eggplant the painter. Cupcake rises early every day to bake fresh treats for his appreciative customers. In the late afternoon, he closes the shop to practice with his band. Life is good until Eggplant offers Cupcake the chance to fly to Europe to meet celebrity pastry chef Turkish Delight.

Cupcake starts dreaming about how wonderful it would be to meet his idol, if only he could find a way to pay for his plane ticket. Cupcake is industrious and works hard to earn extra money. But before he makes travel plans, he learns that Eggplant lost his job. What will Cupcake do?

Although the drawings and characters in Sara Varon's Bake Sale are utterly delightful, the graphic novel lacks a clear direction. At first it seems as if middle grade readers will learn that if you work hard enough and are willing to make some sacrifices, you can realize your dreams. But later the novel takes a different tack and becomes a lesson in the value of friendship.

Unfortunately, Cupcake doesn't seem to get much joy out of helping his friend and in fact becomes depressed. This makes the book somewhat confusing, and young readers may be left thinking that Cupcake would have been happier being selfish. In the end, Eggplant gives Cupcake a spark of hope, but Varon leaves it up to the reader to decide if Cupcake will once again find happiness and satisfaction with his job.

Varon's artwork shines in Bake Sale. The muted colors and fun food people will make you linger over each page. You can't help but smile at Carrot, the waitress at the local diner; Avocado, the band's clarinetist; and Sugar, one of the bakery's best customers. On one page we see a potato taking a steam bath, and on another there's a piece of cake walking a dog. Varon's details are masterful, from the characters' facial expressions to the Pea Pod working a sudoku in the background of a diner scene. Click on the scan to get an idea.

The final section of the book consists of six recipes from Cupcake's bakery shop. The desserts look delicious, and most kids would love to eat one of Cupcake's treats. Note that the recipes are not geared for young chefs or inexperienced bakers and require adult participation.

Although the plot of Bake Sale was a disappointment, I appreciated Varon's sense of humor and artwork and still plan to read her Robot Dreams, which was the recipient of several awards and starred reviews.

Visit Sara Varon's website for more information about Bake Sale and her other graphic novels. You can also follow Varon on Facebook. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Bake Sale at Powell's
Bake Sale at Book Depository
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Published by Roaring Book Press / First Second, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781596434196
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: C+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


bermudaonion 1/2/12, 8:55 AM  

It seems the book didn't live up to its potential, but boy is it cute!!

Beth Hoffman 1/2/12, 8:58 AM  

I actually laughed out loud at the illustrations ... they're hilarious and well done.

rhapsodyinbooks 1/2/12, 9:02 AM  

This book looks very creative and fun. I think I would have loved it as a kid!

Beth S. 1/2/12, 9:12 AM  

I agree that the plot was a bit lacking, but Varon definitely has a unique style that oozes through the pages of this book.

Julie P. 1/2/12, 9:51 AM  

I wonder if it would resonate with MG readers. I have a feeling if it's a graphic novel with cupcakes, it would be a winner with Booking Daughter.

softdrink 1/2/12, 10:22 AM  

Maybe I could hire myself out as a character for the next installment? ;-)

Miss K 1/2/12, 11:05 AM  

I just picked this up and haven't even looked at it yet...I highly recommend Robot Dreams. There is no dialogue in it, yet Varon manages to evoke emotions beautifully.

Zibilee 1/2/12, 12:25 PM  

I love the illustrations and imagination, but am not sure about the story. I want Cupcake to be happy about helping Eggplant dammit! This one might be interesting for a laugh and a lark though, so thanks for sharing your honest opinion on it with us!

Belle Wong 1/2/12, 7:50 PM  

The drawings are definitely very cute!

Vasilly 1/2/12, 9:27 PM  

Thanks for the honest review. I think I'm going to pass this one up. I haven't had the best of luck with this author.

caite 1/7/12, 7:23 AM  

I think potatoes need to be very careful about taking steam baths. they may end up mashed.

TheBookGirl 1/7/12, 8:37 AM  

Too bad the plot veered off in a disappointing direction, but I think I might want to read this one just for the artwork.

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 1/7/12, 8:46 AM  

Sorry the book was disappointing but it does look cute and fun!

Margot 1/7/12, 10:32 AM  

I like the sample page you gave us and the book's premise. Too bad i didn't work on the message for kids. It could have been so good.

Joy Weese Moll 1/7/12, 10:49 AM  

Fun pictures! I took a cartoon drawing class once and my main character was an eggplant, a gardener named Violet Solan.

Laura Fabiani 1/7/12, 11:34 AM  

Haven't seen this book around and I always keep an eye out for graphic novels because my kids like them. It might appeal to my daughter.

Christine 1/7/12, 9:05 PM  

What a unique graphic novel! I'm going to keep my eye out for it at the library. :)

Mary Debrick Chudzynski 1/11/12, 4:41 PM  

I wonder at this piece of cake walking the dog. How does she keep the dog from taking a bite? Or at least a lick?

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