Telling the story of the 16th-century Spanish boy who became the patron saint of the kitchen, dePaola (The Night of Las Posadas; The Legend of the Poinsettia) serves up a particularly well-flavored offering. Working in his signature style, he blends his welcoming watercolors with confidently unadorned prose to translate an ineffable subject-a rapturous love for God-into an experience kids will savor. Angels sing to Pascual on the day he is born; "God must surely love him," says the baby's smiling papa. As the baby grows, his fond parents observe him singing to the sheep ("La-la-la") and the sheep singing back ("Baa-baa-baa"), but what they don't realize is that Pascual and the sheep are "singing to God." The grown Pascual wants to be a friar and help feed the poor, so his parents send him to join the Franciscans, who promptly set him to work in their kitchen. Not daring to tell them he can't cook, he prays for help, so intently that he doesn't notice the band of angels who swoop down and prepare a feast. The artwork, keeping to dePaola's customary panels and frontal style, shines especially in these scenes, as the winged boylike angels, clothed in robes and long white aprons, fly about the kitchen, gather utensils, mix dough, pour beans into bowls-their feet never touching the floor. DePaola adds much to amuse young readers-a kitchen cat to observe the angels, hungry friars who wait outside the kitchen, forks and knives in hand-but doesn't lose sight of Pascual's faith, demonstrating that a picture book can be worshipful and joyful at the same time. Ages 4-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gr 1-4-DePaola brews up a delightful retelling of the life of the patron saint of cooks and the kitchen. On the day of Pascual's birth, angels sing in the trees, and his father realizes that "God must surely love him." Acrylic illustrations with soft pastel backgrounds show Pascual as a little boy, frolicking joyfully with animals and hanging garlands of flowers around the necks of sheep. The winsome paintings capture his serene spirituality as he and the creatures lift their voices toward heaven. Simple, well-chosen words reflect the youngster's sincere love for God and all of His creatures. When Pascual is older, he goes to the monastery of Saint Francis, hoping to become a friar and help the hungry. However, the friars ask him to make their meals. Knowing nothing about cooking, Pascual bows his head and prays. Suddenly, apron-wearing angelic visitors "swoosh in the air above him" and then descend to concoct a feast. Curious about the delicious meals coming from the kitchen, the friars spy on the dinner preparations and learn the truth. Realizing how much God values him, they decide to take a joyful Pascual with them to feed the hungry. Framed by light peach watercolors splashed with rainbow-colored droplets, the illustrations beautifully complement the celestial mood. An author's note provides some background about this humble man.-James K. Irwin, Poplar Creek Main Library, Steamwood, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.