Let’s Read Three: Pancakes Books

It’s been a while since I did a Let’s Read Three grouping. I love putting these together and am brainstorming them all the time, silly and serious. Today, I bring a silly, but incredibly important one for weekend traditions… at least in our family. We love pancakes and consider them a somewhat mandatory item for weekend breakfasting, or let’s be honest – an occasional dinner. So of course we love books about pancakes! All three of these books are vintage, spanning the 60s and 70s; but the last one is actually a recent reprint from Princeton Architectural Press that releases this month. And it is gorgeous! A perfect addition to our trio of delicious reading. Let’s read three books about pancakes!

1. Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola, 1978.

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This book is apparently a classic from Tomie dePaola and has many beloved followers around the Internet. I had not seen it until recently, but it became an instant favorite while we had it from the library. My girls thought it was hilarious and loved to tell me what was happening.

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It is a wordless book about a woman who wakes up dreaming of pancakes. She rushes to her kitchen to make them, but discovers she is out of butter. So she goes to milk the cow and then churns the milk into butter. Then she realizes she is out of eggs, so off to the hen house she goes. This ingredient collection progresses through the story until she finally has everything she needs, only to return to the kitchen and discover her dog and cat have issues of their own.

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The story is hysterical and so well-timed. I love how dePaola uses the page, breaking it into panels for action, or full spreads with thought clouds. And I am always amazed at dePaola’s signature style working so amazingly well. The faces of his characters have so little detail but emote so masterfully on the page! If you love Tomie dePaola, or wordless books, or especially pancakes… this is a book you must read.

2. Little Bear’s Pancake Party by Janice, pictures by Mariana, 1960.

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I have written about Little Bear once before for St. Patrick’s Day, but this is a book I eagerly hunted down years ago because it is just so cute. Little Bear has a strange resemblance to Milne’s infamous bear, and his home looks an awful lot like Burton’s Little House; but whomever he or his influences are – he throws a marvelous pancake party.

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Little Bear lives in a house deep in the woods. One morning, when he should have been waking up, he didn’t want to wake up because he was having a perfectly lovely dream about pancakes. When he finally did arouse, he went in search of pancakes and sang a little song to himself. As he walks and sings, he runs into friend after friend who all offer him something special to them to eat. But Little Bear politely declines and alters his song about wanting pancakes again and again. Finally, the grocer overhears and gives him a box of pancakes, or so Little Bear thinks. He rushes to throw a pancake party with all of his friends. They are so excited until they open the box to discover it is nothing but powder. Thankfully, a mouse comes to the rescue and explains the importance of reading and making the mix and they all sit down to a very wonderful pile of pancakes, of which Little Bear consumes the most, of course.

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Janice and Mariana are such a sweet picture book team. Although this book was created in 1960, I often feel like it has an even older soul to it. It has repetition, but alters ever so slightly each time. And the illustrations are adorable and lovely. My favorite line from the whole book though is when mouse explains to Little Bear that he must read the directions on the box, and Little Bear is confused about what “reading” is. Squeaky, the mouse, says:

“To read is to listen with your eyes instead of your ears.”

I just love that line. It gives me pause every time as I ponder its visual imagery and its implications.

If you haven’t yet met this Little Bear, invite yourself to his pancake party. It is a great place to start.

3. The Pancake King by Phyllis La Farge, pictures by Seymour Chwast, 1971/2016.

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This book showed up in my mailbox a month or so ago and I was immediately struck by the brilliant, neon orange cover. You just can’t miss it! I had never heard of it, but am familiar with pop artist and designer Seymour Chwast, so I was curious to check it out. It is a humorous story with wild illustrations. Prepare yourself for the visual intensity when you read this tale.

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The story is about a boy named Henry Edgewood. Just like our other books in this trio, Henry wakes up hungry one day and exclaims, “Pancakes for breakfast!” His mother is making eggs, so Henry has to make them himself. And he does. Then at lunch, he wants pancakes again. And then for dinner, you guessed it, pancakes. Henry continues to cook pancakes three times a day and he loved it. Soon the neighbors and friends start stopping by to feast on all the pancakes. And then a man in a blue suit comes by, tries the pancakes, and offers Henry a deal to work for him. He wants to make Henry the Pancake King. The family talks over a contract and decide to let him try it. Publicity photos, parades, events, and more follow and soon Henry is overwhelmed with the Pancake King life. And he misses his family.

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This is a very bizarre, very colorful, and very sweet story about fame, fortune, and family. The pop art style isn’t my favorite art or style of illustration, but it is pretty fantastic to look at and adds a lot to this over-the-top fame-filled story. And it is a perfect style to depict parades! My biggest beef with the book would be the boxed type layout on the pages, but just call me a design nerd. I do love that the book includes Henry’s Famous Pancake Recipe in the back and despite its crazy, 70s art, the heart of the tale speaks strongly amidst the visual overload. Be sure to check this reprint out. I can guarantee it is unlike any other picture book your child will encounter.

That’s it for our pancake bookfest! Hope you enjoyed the syrupy goodness for your weekend. Happy reading (and eating)!

2 thoughts on “Let’s Read Three: Pancakes Books

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