Put on your favorite bibs, Hallie Durand is here!
Those of you familiar with the indescribably delicious early chapter books featuring the irrepressible Dessert Schneider (who is synonymous with fun, surprises, a little mischief, lotsa spunk and –*wait for it* — fondue), are in for a treat.
You may remember when I featured Dessert First, where we first met this enterprising third grader who loves all things sweet and tries to convince her parents (who own a fondue restaurant) that they should eat dessert before dinner. Remember how she scarfed down an entire pan of double decker chocolate bars? Clearly a book with my name written all over it. In Just Desserts, Dessert forms the Annoying Siblings Club, since as the eldest of four kids, she’s more than qualified to lead the charge against pesky brothers and sisters.
Now, in No Room for Dessert, our usually optimistic and endearingly self-centered main character feels totally ignored by her family. Her parents seem to focus all their attention on Dessert’s younger sister Charlie (4) and two “Beastie” brothers, Wolfie (2) and Mushy (1). Mushy doesn’t even know her name; he calls her “Dirt!” What’s an invisible girl to do?
Win the Thomas Edison Contest at school, of course. Beloved teacher Mrs. Howdy Doody asks the class to brainstorm ways to make life easier. Dessert’s classmates think up some doozies: marshmallow milk, a tiny washing machine for doll clothes, a flying car, a stretchy arm. But of course none of these hold a candle to Dessert’s brilliant invention, the Vending Dresser — just like a soda machine but full of a month’s supply of clothes. Press a button each morning and voilà! Your outfit for the day pops out.
Dessert is absolutely SURE she’ll win the contest, and when she brings home that shiny trophy, her family will remember how smart, special, and spectacular she really is, never forgetting her ever again. Piece o’ cake! But with big ideas come big disappointments, and our supremely confident inventor has a few things to learn.
Here are Hallie’s answers to a few of my burning questions:
I loved the children’s inventions in this story – some of them were downright hilarious, and they all channeled eight-year-olds perfectly. Where did the ideas for your three favorite inventions come from?
Let’s see . . . what are my three faves? I have to choose Donnie Blackett’s, the two-headed lemonade water gun with rearview mirror because #1: the idea that you could launch a surprise squirt attack on an unsuspecting person makes me laugh, and #2: I think it’s funny that he “stole” his brother’s idea and upped the ante by using lemonade instead of water. I’ve always liked “sneak attacks” when I play tricks so that’s probably why I thought of this ultra-sneaky water gun.
I also love the Collar & Crib system for the Beasties. It’s a little bit evil (just like kids are!). I got the idea from the invisible dog fences all my neighbors have. I also like especially Amy D’s human blinders for people who like to stare at others. This idea came from horse blinders (obviously!) but I love it because it’s so perfect for Amy D . . . we all have an Amy D in our lives.
What would Hallie Durand (as a child) have entered in the contest? Hallie Durand as an adult?
As a kid it probably would have been some kind of bumblebee detector, because I have always been afraid of bumblebees (my fear factor is driving through the Lincoln Tunnel in a car full of bumblebees). As a grown up I would like a wave jumper, because I hate getting washed under in the ocean, you know, when you get spun all around? Maybe a hoppy horse wave jumper for the ocean, so you can hop up in the sky rather than deal with the wave—you wouldn’t have to know how to surf or kite board or anything like that, just a simple ocean hoppy horse!
I like that Dessert is highly confident yet vulnerable. Could you tell us about something unusual you did as a child to get your parents’ attention? Did it work?
I did run away from home once. I packed a suitcase and said I was going to live with my neighbors the Catons (we lived in farm country so our neighbors the Catons were over a mile away). My parents asked me how I would pay for stuff and I said, “I’ll write checks.” And I left. It certainly got their attention because my dad came out to the road and offered me a Nestles Crunch Bar if I came home. I considered the approaching evening, the long road ahead, and the Crunch bar, and the decision was easy: I went home.
Why a Fondue Restaurant? Is it one of your favorite desserts or specialties?
A very, very close friend of mine and restaurant owner gave me a red fondue pot the Christmas before I started writing Dessert First. I had loved fondue as a kid but hadn’t had it in years and years. So I made it and fell in love with it all over again, so did my kids—cheese fondue made with beer is actually my favorite. Since my kids like dessert fondue the best, the idea of an eight-foot-tall dessert fondue fountain seemed like a wonderful fantasy, and since I was writing the book, I was allowed to create it. That was a huge privilege.
Is Dessert based on a real child?
Well I think she’s probably quite a lot like me as a kid (and I’m not sure that’s a compliment). I was the third kid and I often got away with more mischief than my older sisters, simply because I wasn’t watched as closely. I also had a bit of a bad attitude. But Dessert is really her own self—writing is awesome that way—these characters spring forth and they end up telling us writers what to do. The characters really are the bosses.
Can you give us a hint about what she’ll be up to in the next book?
Jama, I hate to break the news but the Dessert series is a trilogy, and this is the third and last book . . . but there’s a sequel to my picture book Mitchell’s License coming out called Mitchell Strikes! And I’m working on quite a few more stories!
No more Dessert books? Say it isn’t so! No Room for Dessert was my favorite of the three; Hallie hit all the right emotional notes in this one when it comes to sibling rivalry and the pure intensity of children’s feelings. Dessert can be full of bravado, but her vulnerability and earnest attempts to counter hurt will win your heart every time. All the fun inventions will get kids’ creative wheels turning, and they’ll definitely see a little bit of themselves in some of Dessert’s actions. As for me, I’m busy inventing a soup that will stay warm till the last drop.
Shall we toast this wonderful trilogy with some homemade cookies? Towards the end of No Room for Dessert, when Dessert’s mother forgets to pick her up after Enrichment Class, new friend Foster Brooks invites her over to his house, where his Mom offers much needed comfort, peanut butter buckeyes and milk. I think I’m feeling better already. ☺
PEANUT BUTTER BUCKEYES
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 T melted, unsalted butter (keep warm)
1/2 tsp. vegetable shortening
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Beat all but chocolate and shortening in medium bowl with spoon or hands. Roll into 1″ balls, place on baking sheet in 1 layer, freeze 15-20 minutes. Melt chocolate and shortening in double boiler, over low heat; stir often. Remove from heat. Insert toothpick into each ball and dip 3/4 into chocolate. Place back on baking sheet. Remove toothpick, smooth hole, and freeze until firm. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Thanks so much, Hallie — for writing all the Dessert books, for dropping by today, and for the yummy cookies! And Congratulations on Mitchell Strikes!
NO ROOM FOR DESSERT
by Hallie Durand
pictures by Christine Davenier
published by Atheneum BFYR, June 2011
Fiction for ages 7-10, 192 pp.
Includes 3 no-bake cookie recipes!
♥ Keep up with all of Hallie’s book news at her Facebook Author Page. Dessert first, last and in between!! ♥
HAVE A GOOD-LOOKIN’ DAY!
*Line drawings from No Room for Dessert posted by permission, copyright © 2011 Christine Davenier, published by Atheneum. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.