I picked up Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams last year at NYCC and immediately fell in love. I may be a huge tomboy, but when it comes to animals, personification of inanimate objects or stories about friendship, I am the biggest girl. Bake Sale followed in that tradition in the best way possible. Not only is Bake Sale just downright adorable, it also has a great message. It’s a story that, at its heart, is about friendship and following your dreams. It’s a story that would be just as comfortable on a grade school classroom’s bookshelf as it is in my own library. It’s messages are universal for all-ages.
Cupcake owns his own bakery, is the drummer in a band, and gets to spend plenty of time with his best friend, Eggplant. Overall, life is pretty good. But he longs to expand his culinary palette with better and more challenging recipes. When he hears that Eggplant’s aunt knows Turkish Delight, Master of Confections, he is sure that if he could just meet her, all his baking dreams would come true. But sometimes, life isn’t quite so simple.
With my only familiarity with Varon’s previous work being the purely visual storytelling of Robot Dreams, I was very interested in seeing Varon’s attempts at dialogue. Though dialogue is still very sparse in this book, she writes in a very natural style that would be accessible to all readers. Her characters are clearly adults but they act and think with the innocence of children, without coming off as naive. I am a big proponent of using graphic novels in the classroom and my editorial focus (when I’m not working on this site) is in middle grade fiction. As such, I was very impressed with this book and would recommend it for use in any classroom, either as a read-to story for younger grades or an independent read for more advanced readers.
The art also conveys the same elegant innocence as the dialogue. Everything is labeled, so the reader is never left wondering what an item in the background might be, but the labels aren’t so overwhelming that you feel you are being talked down to. Rather, they are a augmentation of the reality of her main character, Cupcake, as he moves through his day-to-day life. You feel that you are seeing these labels because that’s how he sees the world. The rest of the art is done in a similarly blatant yet charming style. Things that are important are given strong black or contrasting outlines. Things that belong in the background are left in more muted tones while still retaining the strong, distinct style of the rest of the art. With Robot Dreams being a narrative entirely in pictures, it is no surprise that Varon’s strong suit is her art. Bake Sale is wonderful for maintaining a visual narrative that never leaves room for confusion while still allowing the reader to take their own emotional interpretations from the work.
But truly, the best part of the book, is that it includes RECIPES. That’s right. Many of the delicious baked goods you see Cupcake make throughout the course of the book are included either directly in the narrative, or at the back of the book. Seven in all, to be exact. I LOVE BAKING and after reading this book I was ready to go bake up a storm. Not only because the recepies looked so good, but because the book left me feeling happy and empowered and ready to take on anything. After reading Bake Sale, you’ll feel this way too.
And hopefully you will share. (HINT: Spandexless loves baked goods!)
TL;DR: Bake Sale is a wonderful graphic novel from Sara Varon. I would recommend it for all-ages, and particularly for use in the classroom. No matter what your age, this adorable tale will warm your cockles. I suggest you buy it and read it whenever you are sad.