BookfestPA, set for July 13 in State College, will feature two books for children by local women: “Good News Nelson,” written by Boalsburg’s Jodi Moore, and “Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo,” illustrated by State College’s Anni Matsick.
Both books are fun, but otherwise they could hardly be more different.
“Good News Nelson,” illustrated in acrylic, colored pencil and collage by Brendan Flannelly-King, is a picture book aimed at children ages 4 through 9.
Morning paperboy Nelson delivers not only the news but good cheer to his neighbors when he makes his rounds. “Good morning!” he cries, and the neighbors reply, “What’s the good news, Nelson?”
The only neighbor immune to Nelson’s charms is cranky old Mrs. Snodberry, who believes that many of the ills documented in the newspaper result from people not caring anymore. The owner of a “crumpled” cat of her own, Mrs. Snodberry is particularly upset when she reads that 100 cats have been abandoned.
Nelson thinks people really do care, and determines to do something to help those cats. In the process, he enlists the help of Mrs. Welsh who runs the animal rescue shelter. Energetic Mrs. Welsh — with her snazzy wardrobe of bright prints and big jewelry — is the diametric opposite of pinched, sad Mrs. Snodberry. And she’s “bursting with ideas” to help Nelson out.
Together, the two come up with a means of rescuing the cats that takes advantage of Nelson’s job, in particular his access to newspaper. In the end (spoiler alert!) even Mrs. Snodberry appreciates Nelson.
Besides the positive message about attitude and resourcefulness, a key appeal of the book is Flannelly-King’s depiction of Nelson’s harmonious, multicultural and slightly ramshackle neighborhood, with its clapboard houses, abundant phone wires, front porches and cars in driveways.
Moore is also the author of “When a Dragon Moves In,” illustrated by Howard McWilliam.
“Eat It!,” written by Gracie Cavnar, is many things at once — a cookbook, the first six chapters of a historical novel, and a resource book on food and food history.
An author’s note explains that “Eat It!” is part of an effort to stem childhood obesity by encouraging children to “reconnect with real, unprocessed food.”
The novel tells the story of the fictional Tavi Fornero, who brings his gourmet sensibility along on a trading mission with young Marco Polo and his father in 1275, greatly improving the menu options for his shipmates in the process. The format is an engaging way for Cavnar to impart some economic, food and cultural history. At the same time, she is obviously hoping Fornero’s enthusiasm for new taste treats will set an example for young readers.
In the book’s second section, “Recipes from Venice to Greece,” are 28 recipes including traditional Genovese focaccia, ravioli with fresh herbs and saffron and plum cake. I made fish soup, one of the easier recipes, and thought it was delicious.
At the same time, it should be noted that many of the recipes would be time-consuming even for an accomplished cook.
The super-informative reference section includes 11 pages on where foods come from, beginning with almonds and ending with yogurt, a note on flour and bread, and further cooking basics.
Matsick’s appealing watercolor illustrations of Tavi and his family in Venice, shipboard life, ports of call and plenty of delicious-looking food enhance the package as well as making the characters and remote locales more accessible to modern children.
“Eat It!” and “Good News Nelson” will be featured along with their authors at BookfestPA in downtown State College from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday, July 13. For details, go to www.bookfestpa.org.
Martha Freeman is the author of 18 books for children and young adults. Her latest is “The Case of the Missing Dinosaur Egg.”