Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Baker's Dozen by Aaron Shepherd

Rating: WORTHY!

This is an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Beautifully illustrated, this Christmas story (actually set on and around Saint Nicholas's Day, which falls in early December), tells a highly fanciful tale of how a "baker's dozen" came to be thirteen rather than the actual twelve there is in a dozen. In fact it's because bakers in the past (as early as the eighteenth century if not before) didn't want to be fined for shorting their customers so they added one more to their 'dozen' (a term which comes from the French) for good measure. No one is going to complain about getting something for nothing, right?

In this story however, a rather gluttonous woman puts a curse on the baker for giving her only twelve "cookies" (a term which actually derives from a Dutch word koekje) when she'd requested a dozen. The baker's business falls into a disastrous decline until he decides to give thirteen instead of twelve for a dozen, whereupon his business flourishes! I don't know if this is the reverse of the real spirit of Christmas in our capitalistic age, where less is more - profitable!, or if it actually embodies it!

The real joy of this story though, apart from the happy ending, is Wendy Edelson's gorgeous illustrations in full color, which hark back if not to a Dickensian Christmas age, hark certainly back to a Rockwellian one. Beautifully done in great detail and in rich earth tones, ornamented with Christmas reds and whites, the images are a joy, but you cannot enjoy them at their best in electronic form unfortunately. This is very much intended as a print book, and the tablet version breaks up the images in unfortunately and uncomplimentary ways. This is the really the kind of book you have to buy in the print version and leave on the coffee table over the holidays! And perhaps that's just as well. A little old fashioned never hurt anyone at Christmas, now did it?