Friday, May 6, 2011

Just Desserts by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Dessert is back! Her first adventure, Dessert First, was a delightful introduction to a fun character and I'm very pleased to make an exception to my "no sequels" rule and recommend this second volume of Dessert's adventures.

Dessert is experiencing a series of catastrophes. First, there's her parents insistence on giving her disgusting leftovers instead of letting her buy a school lunch. Then there's her younger sister Charlie, who suddenly won't let Dessert boss her around anymore and even gets her into trouble, and her twin brothers, who have started getting into her things. Then her mom makes her take all the money out of her panda savings bank and put it in the bank. Dessert discovers she's not the only one with unbearably annoying siblings.

Inspired by their history lessons on the American Revolution, Dessert forms a club and promises to help all her friends settle the annoying sibling problem once and for all. Of course, a club has to have dues and as president Dessert is in charge of them. She really, really means to help everyone. But she still has those disgusting leftovers and now that she has money the school lunch is really tempting....suddenly, Dessert realizes she's made everything worse not better, and she's in a lot of trouble. Is there any way she can fix it?

One of the things that makes the Dessert stories stand out from the myriad of spunky-girls-learning-about-friendship-and-school is the realism of her characters. Most of the other girls are, well, a little too perfect. They get into arguments and trouble, but it's usually misunderstandings or mistakes. Dessert messes up. She can be selfish and mean and bossy and greedy. But she does her best to make things right when she realizes how wrong she's been; she apologizes and gives up the things she wants so she can fix the problems she's caused for her friends. Durand not only hits Dessert's character spot on, she captures all the frustration and annoyance of siblings and parents who won't do anything. I wanted to march over to Dessert's friends' houses and tell their parents to wake up and fix things! Davenier's illustrations are the perfect complement to Durand's text and flesh out the characters and add little elements of interest to the story.

Verdict: Dessert is an absolute must for your library. Forget all the cookie cutter girl stories with quirky and unrealistic characters - pass Dessert out to boys and girls with annoying siblings, a sweet tooth, and who like truly realistic stories about kids with whom they can empathize.

ISBN: 9781416963875; Published July 2010 by Atheneum; Review copy provided by publisher

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