Gifted with a natural talent for cooking, Madeleine is sent to help her mean uncle, Monsieur Lard, with his restaurant, The Squealing Pig, in Paris each summer. Jealous of her cooking abilities, he won’t let her do anything except wash the dishes. One day, when running an errand, Madeleine stumbled across a tiny little shop in a tiny little alley. In this shop she finds some of the most amazing and rarest types of food in the world:
sausages of Bison and Black Pepper, Wild Boar and Red Wine, and Minotaur Salami with Sage and Wild Thyme. Among the dried meats there are Salt-Cured Raptor Tails, Pterodactyl Bacon, Smoked Sabre-Toothed Tiger and Rolled Tyrannosaurus Rex Tongue.
When Uncle Lard finds out that the jar of spread that was served quite successful to his clients came from Madame Pamplemousse’s shop, he quickly devises an evil plan to send Madeleine to work for (spy on) Madame Pamplemousse and find out what makes her dishes so incredible and delicious.
Infused with supernatural elements via Madame Pamplemousse and Camembert the cat, kids in 3rd-4th grade will particularly be drawn to this book. It is easy to read, set in Paris and Madeleine is a child that is easy to relate to. A quiet, precocious and gifted girl. The story plays out like a Cinderella story with a happy ending. This book is great for kids interested in food and cooking, travel, as well as how to treat your friends and family with respect. The illustrations are sparse, but help illuminate scenes from the book. Kingfisher infused quite a few French words very easily into this book. For example, Monsieur Lard = Mr. Bacon and he illustrated as looking like a pig. Monsieur Langoustine = Mr. Lobster and he is illustrated as looking like a lobster with pincers for hands. Many of the themes in this book reminded me of Roald Dahl’s work (neglectful parents and guardians), Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events (smart and talented children) and Richard Ardaagh’s The House on Awful End (silliness and adventures in a land away from home).
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