The Cookie Maker of Marvin Road by Sue Lawson, illustrated by Liz Anelli. Candlewick Press, c2020, 2021. 9781536219975
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? Benedict Stanley lives alone on Marvin Street with his cat Audrey Mae. His neighbors rush by and barely say hello except for Rory, who stops to make friends with the cat. Benedict digs out his wife’s recipe book and starts leaving themed batches of cookies surreptitiously for Rory and then for everyone on the street: ghost treats for Halloween, cat cookies after a kitten rescue, and soccer cookies after a tournament. But one day, Benedict falls ill and the cookies stop arriving. Rory figures out that Benedict now needs Marvin Street’s help and pulls everyone together to bring goodies and spruce up the old man’s house. This is a sweet homage to neighborliness. The book’s large pages and mixed media drawings will invite readers to linger over the many interesting details, such as the varied houses on the street: a midcentury modern, a Victorian townhouse, an Italianate duplex. People in the neighborhood have a mix of skin colors and family groupings. The book closes with Benedict and Audrey’s basic cookie recipe and some decorating ideas.
Anything you didn’t like about it? It is an Australian import, so Marvin Street hosts tropical plants like palm trees and succulents, which may strike some children as unfamiliar or exotic. I found the language to be a bit stilted and singsong, for example, “Benedict and Audrey Mae putter and plant until legs weary and shoulders tire.”
To whom would you recommend this book? Children learning about being good neighbors. For me, the message of the book recalled A Sick Day for Amos McGee, while the squiggly drawings with their warm, earth-toned illustrations looked like descendents of The House on East 88th Street from the Lyle, Lyle Crocodile stories.
Who should buy this book? Public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: February 17, 2022