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Charise Mericle Harper (web.me.com/chariseharper) has created a number of books for children, including the Fashion Kitty series and the Just Grace series. Charise lives with her family in Westchester County, New York. same as above
The plucky hero of this story may be a "plain and white and ordinary" cupcake, but Harper (Fashion Kitty) shows she's no fan of vanilla endings, leaving unresolved the conflict she sets up in the beginning. Cupcake is convinced that his relatives-Happy-Face Cupcake, Pink Princess Cupcake, and others-have more pizzazz than he does, until he meets a candle with the same problem and a bright idea. Harper's black-outlined cartoon characters appear on sparsely decorated, pastel pages to cheery effect, but it's the line-drawn facial expressions that provide most of the action. Cupcake reacts to the screwy toppings Candle brings him with appropriate horror and dubious smiles, as he is sprinkled with spaghetti, pancakes, and smelly cheese. The plot continues to focus on Cupcake's problem-Candle even apologizes for not being able to find him "something special"-but the gag ending doesn't go where some readers may suspect it's headed. After Candle retrieves a nut that a squirrel left in Cupcake's frosting, Candle stands tall atop the cupcake and delivers a closing zinger: "Hey, wait a minute.... Tomorrow, let's try celery!" PW" Flour, sugar, and a few other ingredients get mixed in a bowl, then baked, and, voil, a cupcake is born. With a coating of icing, he becomes Vanilla Cupcake and introduces himself to his family, Fancy Flowertop Cupcake and Chocolate Chocolatey Cupcake, et al. But by the end of the day, when the others have been chosen, Vanilla Cupcake realizes he's, well, plain. He meets up with Candle, also plain, who has some sparkling siblings. Despite their simplicity, when the duo get together, they are more than the sum of their parts. There's not much actual story, but there's plenty of humor as Candle comes up with some out there ideas of what to crown Cupcake with (pancakes, pickles) before realizing what the perfect topping is. The art, a mix of black lines, patterned backgrounds, and swirly sweetness, makes the simple moral about being special quite palatable. Booklist" Vanilla Cupcake feels woefully inadequate compared to his deliciously decorated siblings. "Chocolaty Chocolate," "Fancy Flower-Top," and "Rainbow-Sprinkles" are immediately chosen, leaving him alone on the plate. A green candle overhears Vanilla's sobs and comes up with a solution: "Hey, you just need a special topping." Candle's kooky suggestions pickles, smelly cheese, a squirrel will elicit a lot of laughs. Candle and Cupcake are eventually united, but a surprise ending will bring more chuckles. Harper imbues her childlike line drawings with lots of personality. A recipe for cupcakes (plain, of course) is included. Readers will gobble up the goofy humor. SLJ" "One day, in a big bowl, flour, sugar, eggs, milk, and baking powder were all mixed together" and "Cupcake was born." The first thing friendly Vanilla Cupcake does after receiving his coating of frosting (also vanilla) is introduce himself to his brothers and sisters: a double-page spread shows six fancy cupcakes, including Pink Princess Cupcake ("Charmed, I'm sure") and Chocolaty Chocolate Cupcake ("It's chocorific to meet you"). At the end of the day, Cupcake is bummed to find himself the lone cupcake left on the plate-unwanted and ordinary. A little candle hears his sobs and shares his own tale of being a plain candle among fancy siblings (Number Candle, Twisty Candle, etc.). What a downer: "Now both Cupcake and Candle were feeling sad." Think you know what's coming? Not so fast-Harper stays true to her absurdist tale, drawing out the silliness and supplying a funny, unpredictable conclusion that exactly fits the eclectic story's humor. Dialogue that appears in the faux-childlike, pastel-colored art is connected to each speaker via dotted lines (straight, crooked, or swirly) that neatly convey mood. Horn Book"