CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 31. . . .April 15, 2011.
Nicola Winstanley. Illustrated by Janice Nadeau.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Stacey Matson.
Miriam loved to take the springy dough from the mixer and knead in all the tasty treasures with her warm, soft hands. Because it was her favorite, Miriam always saved the cinnamon bread for last. As she kneaded the raisins into the dough, she sang all the songs her mother had taught her when she was a child, and the smell of the cinnamon and the sound of her beautiful voice rose together and curled through the air.
This charming picture book is a simple love story about a baker, a man on a bicycle, and their new baby.
Miriam is a baker with fantastic recipes. Her breads are inventive and famous in the village. She adores making bread, and one day, along comes Sebastian who loves her as much as she loves bread. Soon enough, Miriam and Sebastian are married and have a lovely baby girl. Although they know they have the most beautiful and perfect baby girl, she wonít stop crying! She cries when Miriam tries to sing to her, she cries when Sebastian bathes her, tickles her, and rocks her. She sleeps, she cries. She sleeps, she cries. Sebastian and Miriam are at their witís end; how do they make their most perfect baby happy? Then early one morning, Miriam awakes in a silent house, and she is reminded of her bakery, the wonderful feel and smells of the cinnamon bread, and the songs of her youth, and she finally finds a solution to make her family happy again.
Nicola Winstanley is originally from New Zealand, but she makes her home in Toronto, ON. Cinnamon Baby is her first picture book, and it plays with the power of the senses to calm even the most colicky of babies. Her words float off the page and into a readerís stomach, describing the breads of Miriamís bakery as being ďfull of smells to make your nose twitch and tastes to make your tongue tingle.Ē Winstanleyís language is poetic and descriptive and soothing to hear aloud.
Janice Nadeau is a Governor Generalís literary award winner for illustration in 2009 for Harvey, and she also won in 2004 for Nul Poisson oý Aller, and in 2008 for Ma Meilleure Amie. Her illustrations are mostly complex watercolours, enhanced by pencil detailing, and paper collage. The effect in Cinnamon Girl is wonderful. Nadeau plays with colour, placement and action with great effect, extending the text into intricate and whimsical illustration. Each page is laid out differently, and the characters are illustrated in such a manner that imbues them with style, and humour. The babyís tears become the river, and Miriamís songs are drawn in curlicues and flowered sheaves. By Nadeauís use of paper collage, pages have an almost three-dimensional effect, adding visual depth to the world of Cinnamon Girl. Nadeauís illustrations move fluidly across the double paged spreads, creating worlds that are imaginative and romantic. The colours used are warm and inviting, matching the adjectives that make the readerís mouth water. Through the illustration, readers see a multi-cultural and co-parented family working together through a challenge, without it seeming heavy handed, or didactic. Nadeau and Winstanley are paired perfectly for this book that is quirky, poetic and artistic. Cinnamon Girl will certainly be treasured, placed carefully on the bookshelf. It makes an excellent gift for a new family. Just donít read it when you are hungry!
Stacey Matson has worked in educational and interpretive programming in cultural/historic sites across Canada. She is currently pursuing her MA in childrenís literature at the University of British Columbia.
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