This is a story about the magic behind good cooking. A chef of any age needs more than just the right ingredients and the correct equipment to make fabulous food. There is something else that goes into every recipe, and you cannot buy it anywhere. Unfortunately, one person thinks he can.
Madeleine should be cooking in her uncle’s kitchen at the Squealing Pig - not washing up all the greasy dishes. But one taste of her delicious lemony flavored soup made her uncle so jealous that he banished her from the stove forever. All she is allowed to do now is wash the customers dirty dishes, keep the Head Chef company in the kitchen, and run the occasional errand for the chefs.
On the day the Squealing Pig uses up the last of its Mixed Innards Pâté, Madeleine jumps at the chance to take a much-needed break from her neverending job of dishwashing. But instead of going to the market as she usually does, she takes the narrow back streets and follows a white cat right into the front door of Madame Pamplemousse’s Edibles shop.
Although she doesn’t come back with what she needs, she comes back with something that her uncle, Monsieur Lard, quickly comes to desire. His desire for it grows so strong, that he actually involves Madeleine in his plans of deceit and trickery. While he’s busy keeping his new customers happy, Madeleine is to work as Madame Pamplemousse’s assistant in the Edibles shop and find the recipe he needs. Monsieur Lard does get the recipe from Madeleine but not the results he expects. It’s Madeline who gets those results, and more!
Rupert Kingfisher’s use of adjectives when describing the Edibles shop and the Squealing Pig restaurant will have readers experiencing a variety of sights and sounds from the food business. Madame Pamplemousse’s shabby, out-of-the-way shop in Paris contains “the single most delicious, the most extraordinary, the most incredible-tasting edible of them all.” It doesn’t sit among the shelves of Scorpion Tails in Smoked Garlic Oil and Giant Squid Tentacle in Jasmine-Scented Jelly but below the counter in jar with a blank label.
The ingredients are kept secret, and it’s only made by the owner, Madame Pamplemousse, and her one-eyed cat, Camembert, in an always locked room. Although the shop is filled with delicacies, surprisingly, not many people know about it - and Madame Pamplemousee wouldn’t have it any other way.
In comparison, Monsieur Lard's food at the Squealing Pig is revolting and includes such things as Pig’s Ear Pizza and Cream of Liver Mousse. His bullying ways make his chefs “wobble like jelly,” and his greasy cooking often makes his customers leave the table feeling bloated and nauseous. Monsieur Lard’s dream is for popularity: he wants to become a famous chef.
Camembert’s mischievousness and Monsieur Lard’s bad luck add humor to this culinary story, while the Head Chef’s emotional outbursts and Madame Pamplemousse’s repertoire of secrets add drama and suspense. Black-and-white line drawings decorate almost every page; one or two small illustrations are on the sides of some pages, while other pages feature full-length illustrations. The illustrations show how impish some of the characters can be (especially Camembert), and how enchanting some of the characters can become. Everything in the story is drawn to look timeless, and this works well with the magical experience of the story.
This book is definitely recommended for young readers who enjoy fairytale elements or enchantment in their stories. The story does involve jealousy and bravery but ends in happiness - even for the antagonist, Monsieur Lard.
Rupert Kingfisher studied philosophy and play writing. Residing in England, Rupert’s plays have been on the radio and performed in cities such as Dublin and London. Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles is his first novel.
Sue Hellard’s illustrations have appeared in many children’s books, including Princesses Are Not Quitters! and The Mouse Who Braved Bedtime. She lives in London with her cat and four guinea pigs.