Stories about runaway food — whether pancakes, bannocks, rice cakes, latkes, tortillas or gingerbread men — have long delighted children of all ages. Though Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the first man-shaped gingerbread cookie, portraying the Gingerbread Boy as a story hero is a uniquely American invention. The cheeky, spicy guy first appeared in print in an 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine, and he’s been running and taunting readers ever since.
In the charmingly clever interactive mystery Catch that Cookie (2014), which was inspired by author Hallie Durand’s son, young Marshall doesn’t believe gingerbread men can walk or run. Sure, he’s heard all the stories his teacher Mrs. Gray has shared with the class, but Marshall doesn’t buy any of it. Cookies are for eating, period.
When it’s time for them to make their own gingerbread boys, Marshall enjoys mixing the dough (Mrs. Gray tells him he “rocked” it), and decorating his little man with “good stuff”: six raisins for eyes and a special silver-ball belt. But later when Mrs. Gray unlocks the oven to retrieve the baked cookies, they’re gone!
Luckily, those saucy little rascals have left rhyming riddle clues as to their whereabouts, so now Marshall and his classmates are off on a wild cookie hunt all over the school.
If you can find us, we’ll be your snack,
But if you can’t, we’re never coming back.
We ran from the oven, we were bored and hot,
Now we’re hiding in a big, black _ _ _ .
Will they be able to find those sassy cookies? Will Marshall change his mind about believing they can run? There’s never a dull moment as the kids race from kitchen to sand table to gym to doll corner from one riddle to the next. What makes the story especially fun is we’re never really sure whether all of this is somehow Mrs. Gray’s doing, or if it’s really magic. Judging by the mounting evidence (footprints all over the gym, the stray raisin and silver ball), as well as Hallie’s captivating storytelling and Caldecott winner David Small’s funny, spirited illustrations, I’d say it’s definitely magic. 🙂
The rhyming clues are little poetic gems, propelling the narrative forward at a swift pace. It’s amusing to observe Marshall’s gradual change of heart, feel the energy and exuberance of his classmates, and it’s quite refreshing to meet Mrs. Gray, a true original in her dangly earrings and striped tights.
I love this enchanting mash-up of mystery, suspense, mischief, poetry, problem solving, audience participation and humor presented in a relatable, realistic school setting. Marshall is personality plus with his freckles and mop of curly ginger hair, and readers will be instantly drawn into his dilemma. I especially like Small’s use of free-flowing gingerbread-colored wash in the early part of the story, much like a spicy fragrance wafting through the air as the cookies are made and baked.
Catch That Cookie is a natural choice for the holidays, the season of magic and wonder, but it’s also a good year-round read, because we always need an inspiring reminder to believe. I’m also tickled to find a story that’s given new meaning to the term “fast food.” So what are you waiting for? Put on your sneakers and run right out to catch this one — if you can! 🙂
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C – O – O – K – I – E – S!
Here is Hallie’s favorite gingerbread cookie recipe from Taste of Home. Am definitely adding it to my recipe box. We thank her for sharing it as well as several Fall Book Tour photos.
GINGERBREAD CUTOUT COOKIES
Total Time: Prep: 30 minutes + chilling. Bake: 10 minutes/batch + cooling.
Yield: 60 cookies
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Vanilla frosting of your choice
- Red and green paste food coloring
1. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses. Combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight or until easy to handle.
2. On lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with floured 2-1/2 inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool. Tint some of the frosting red and some green. Decorate cookies.
Tip: Lock your oven door and stand guard while cookies are baking, unless you fancy chasing down your cookies. 🙂
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CATCH THAT COOKIE
written by Hallie Durand
illustrated by David Small
published by Dial BFYR, 2014
Picture Book for ages 3-5, 32 pp.
*Starred Review* from Booklist
*More about Hallie Durand and this book at Writing and Illustrating’s Free Fall Friday.
* Read about how David Small designed the Catch That Cookie cover in his Illustrator Saturday feature at Writing and Illustrating.
*** SURPRISE GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of CATCH THAT COOKIE signed by BOTH Hallie Durand and David Small? Just leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Thursday, December 18, 2014!! Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be announced on Friday.
*Spreads from Catch that Cookie posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Hallie Durand, illustrations © 2014 David Small, published by Dial BFYR. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.