I’ve got dessert on my mind — berry shortcake, to be precise. I’ve already done the strawberry shortcake during strawberry season. My raspberry bushes are producing at a rate that might call for shortcake in the near future, however. And whenever I make shortcake — or even think of it — I think of Cook-a-doodle-doo by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel (who are sisters, I believe).
This book was An Extreme Favorite at our house through two kids — one who was already on the older end of picture books when it came out. Why the popularity? Quite simply: It’s hilarious. And sweet (no pun intended). But mostly hilarious.
Big Brown Rooster is in need of a change — no more chicken feed! No more pecking about! He remembers that his very famous great-grandmother, The Little Red Hen, penned a cookbook: The Joy of Cooking Alone by L.R. Hen. Once he finds it, he realizes his great granny cooked far more than loaves of bread. And he is hungry for the strawberry shortcake featured in the middle of the book.
Like his Great-Granny before him, Big Brown Rooster is surrounded by unhelpful friends. Dog, Cat, and Goose each take their potshots at Big Brown Rooster, but he is undeterred. He ties on his apron, ready to cook all alone, only to find three new friends: Turtle, Iguana, and Pot-bellied Pig.
“Do you three know anything about cooking?” Rooster asked.
“I can read recipes!” said Turtle.
“I can get stuff!” said Iguana.
“I can taste!” said Pig. “I am expert at tasting.”
And so the team members don hats — an apron tied around Big Brown Rooster’s head, a towel around Pig’s head, an oven mitt for Iguana, and a small pot worn baseball cap-like for turtle. The illustrations are sweet and hysterical at the same time. The mix-ups and misunderstandings are on the level of the Three Stooges crossed with Amelia Bedelia. But detailed sidebars guide a home/kid cook through the correct steps. What the friends lack in experience and skill, they make up for in exuberance and excitement — so, very much like baking with children, actually.
It’s astounding when you see what they go through, but they create a beautiful (if slightly leaning) tower of strawberry shortcake. It’s only when they try to move it to the table to enjoy together that things…slip away from them. Pot-bellied Pig takes his turn — he’s the expert taster, and positively unflummoxed by shortcake being smeared across the floor. In split second — not even a page turn — the strawberry shortcake is gone.
It is then that the previously amiable friends start to lose it. Names are called and threats are intimated (plump juicy roast pig, iguana pie, turtle soup etc.)
But wise Rooster takes command. “It doesn’t matter,” he says. “The first shortcake was just for practice.”
And so they make another. The three friends — Iguana, Pig, and Turtle — volunteer to help again, and it’s quick work the second time around. The last spread features a party of friends—including the nay-saying Dog, Cat and Goose!—enjoying strawberry shortcake. The last page features Great-Granny’s recipe for Magnificent Strawberry Shortcake.
I think I’ll make some tonight!