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on April 18, 2004
There's one thing to definitely be said about Jan Brett. She knows what she's good at and she doesn't stray from her particular brand of storytelling. If you've ever read a Jan Brett story then you're already familiar with her style. Each tale usually exists in a snow covered land, where vaguely European peasant-like people go about their daily lives. You're not going to read a Jan Brett that's set in the grimy suburbs of southern Philadelphia or the desert-like atmosphere of Bahrain. And that's fine. Here, with "The Gingerbread Baby", Brett has taken a classic fairy tale and given it a twist of an ending. The result is an effective retelling that should please even the most die-hard traditionalists.
First of all, the book explains EXACTLY why the Gingerbread Baby appears in the first place. In the original tale, a woman cooking the gingerbread merely opens the oven door and out pops the cocky cookie. In this story, however, a boy (Matti) and his mother are following the recipe found in a worn-looking cookbook. Though the recipe instructs to bake a gingerbread boy for a full eight minutes, "No more. No less. DO NOT peek", Matti cannot resist taking just a little glance at the yummy pastry man. Too late he realizes his mistake and the Gingerbread Baby (it's still too young to be a gingerbread boy, you see) leaps out to its freedom. The next few pages show the various modes of escape the creature uses to keep from being eaten by everyone from Matti's parents to dogs, goats, pigs, peasants, and a crafty fox. In the traditional story, the fox is the clever party that devours the Gingerbread Boy. Not so here. In an interesting twist, Matti bakes a gingerbread house for the naughty baby, and rescues his creation from the villagers by simply luring the Gingerbread creature into its home. The final panel shows the delighted Gingerbread Baby dancing about its little home safe and sound while Matti looks on.
Personally, I was rooting for the fox. But this ending will certainly please any parent who's child has seen "Shrek" fifty plus times over and cannot contemplate such a dire fate for the partying pastry. So while I feel the original tale had more kick and verve, I don't have any serious problems with this tale. Brett gives the Gingerbread Baby enough of a sense of humor to tie the braids of his female pursuers together as well as leaping onto an ice floe when danger comes ever nearer. Brett's illustrations are the real stars of the show, however. Very very few illustrators pay half as much detail to their entire books as Brett does to a single square inch of any page. Her pictures are as adept at displaying blue porcelain mixing bowls and copper pans and teapots as they are at flesh tones, fur, and wicker. When you see a person with braids you can almost count the hairs on their head, they're so individualized. Brett also excels at knitted objects. This is an illustrator who understands the nature of knitting. You can actually count the stitches on Matti's red sweater in this book. And look at the minute details in the clothing each character wears. Or the intricate scrollwork of their furniture. Or the different borders surrounding every page, or the tiles, or the oven, or.... It just goes on and on. There's no other illustrator like her. If you've a penchant for the kinds of kids books you can read over and over to the little ones that contains tiny details in every crack and corner, this is the book for you.
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on December 20, 2002
I work as a teachers' assistant with kindergartners. Jan Brett's books have long been favorites of mine. She may have outdone herself on this one! There's always the exquisite artwork, the detailed borders that foreshadow the story, and the kind and gentle retelling of tales that are classics. This is the story of the gingerbread boy, the same story we grew up with, with a delightful ending. The Gingerbread Baby does not get eaten this time. How this comes about just really captures the children's imagination-they cheer, clap, and smile from ear to ear. We read all the versions of The Gingerbread Boy that our school library has, and the kids vote on their favorite version. Every year, The Gingerbread Baby wins, by huge amounts. That's all you need to know, really, about this book. Five, six and seven year-olds just LOVE it. And the adult reading it will enjoy the story and marvel at the beautiful art work, which Jan Brett does herself. Highly recommended!
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on July 12, 2000
Jan Brett has created another lovely story. The illustrations, as in all of her books, capture the interests and imaginations of children. The story, a spin-off of other stories about gingerbread characters, has its own original twists and a quite different and surprising ending. The gingerbread baby is just as peppy and proud as past gingerbread characters, as he runs away from Matti, Mother, Father, the cat, the dog, the goats, Martha and Madeline, the pig, the fox, the milk and cheese man, and finally all of the villagers. Children will love this new version of the antics of a gingerbread baby!
Note to teachers: This story would be great to use with Christmas Around the World, or a study of Switzerland. Be sure to let your children make gingerbread people and houses. They will love the measuring and counting activities and they will enjoy being creative as they decorate.
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on November 28, 2003
What happens if you open the oven before a gingerbread man is done cooking? You get a gingerbread baby that leaps out of the oven taunting all it comes in contact with.
The gingerbread baby dare all it see to try and catch it. But the animated treat is too fast and slick. Always eluding capture and befuddling its pursuers. But as the whole town gradually joins in the chase, young Matti, who did the baking and opened the oven too soon, stays quietly at home and consults the cook book for a solution. So, as the townspeople think they have chased the gingerbread baby to its doom, young Matti knows differently.
Another beautiful book from a talented children's author. As with most of Jan's books, you should pay attention to the decorative borders for more insight into the story.
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on March 16, 2003
I really enjoyed this story. It was neat how it was a gingerbread baby instead of the gingerbread man. This little boy named Matti is making a gingerbread man with his mom. The instructions say not to peak into the oven while it is cooking. Matti starts getting excited and he looks into the oven only halfway through its cooking. A little gingerbread baby pops out and says, "I am the Gingerbread Baby, Fresh from the pan. If you want me, Catch me if you can." After that it runs around the whole village saying that phrase and running away from everyone and everything that tries to catch it. It is running free until Matti makes a gingerbread house for it to live in. I think this story would be very easily likable for children to listen to and read.
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on October 30, 1999
Matti is making a gingerbread man but he opens the oven too soon and out pops a gingerbread baby. Out the door he runs where he is chased by an ever growing group of people and animals. Our friend Matti has the perfect plan to catch the little guy and sets out to build the perfect trap. It WORKS!!! Only Matti knows what becomes of the gingerbread baby (and the readers). Chalk full of the beautifuly detailed pictures we have come to expect from Jan Brett, this charming retelling of an old favorite puts a new spin on the clasic Gingerbread Man. This is a MUST buy for all Brett fans!!!!!
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on June 3, 2001
I teach in an elementary school of over 800 students. Each year I present a unit on Jan Brett. I introduce her as my personal favorite author/illustrator. I teach this unit before our Christmas holiday and use a variety of her books. I found the use of the plush Gingerbread Baby an extra in my teaching unit. The children immediately recognize the character and it makes the experience that much more meaningful. I am SO glad I have the plush as part of my teaching unit. Many of my students have mentioned that they have purchased their own Gingerbread Baby!
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on December 15, 1999
This story adds a new twist to the tale of the Gingerbread boy. The cookie is taken out of the oven too soon and escapes as a baby instead of a boy. The cookie leads the characters on a merry chase while Matti, the boy who created him, comes up with the perfect idea- a gingerbread home for the gingerbread baby. The illustrations and picture clues make this book a story children will love reading again and again. The colorful text is easily adapted for most reading levels. This book is sure to become a new classic
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on July 3, 2000
My sister gave this as a birthday gift to my daughter. Since then, it has been the #1 choice of both the 3 and 5 year old every night for the past two months. They Love It. Both the story and the pictures are great, and I can stand to reread it to them. As a Swiss descendant, the pictures of Alpine life and other touches are accurately detailed and very nice. (and relate to our family history) The author has created a very nice small masterpiece.
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on December 12, 2000
I use this book in a Jan Brett author/illustrator unit with my Kindergartener, third and fifth graders. The children love the sassy little gingerbread baby. They especially love the flap-book ending. My children are introduced to the detailed, elaborate borders and illustrations of Jan Brett, and come to love all of the Jan Brett books. I highly recommend this book and feel confident it will become a favorite with your family as well.
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