Fannie in the Kitchen
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
2000. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Fannie Farmer (1857-1915) wrote the cookbook which introduced standardized measurements for recipes.
This is not a comprehensive biography of Fannie Farmer, but an exploration of the specific situations leading to her major contribution to the world of cooking. Told through the eyes of young Marcia Shaw, the daughter of a family for whom Fannie serves as mother's helper, the story explores how working for the Shaws may have helped Fannie to understand the need for more precise measurements for baking and cooking.
About the Illustrations
The illustrations have a lot of personality, and facial expressions are used to convey feelings of amusement, worry, frustration, and delight. There are lots of details about nineteenth century kitchens, as well as hints from Fannie Farmer's actual cookbook hanging as decorations on the walls of the Shaw house. The pictures convey the time period without feeling old-fashioned, and Marcia's humorous difficulties with her own culinary projects give the reader an easy entry point into the story.
The author's note reveals what little information is actually known about Fannie Farmer, and provides her recipe for griddle cakes. It's a short note, but it contains all the pertinent information, and, because it is included as the "Seventh Course" of the story, "The Nuts," readers are not as likely to miss it as they would be to pass by other books' authors' notes.
This book is shelved in the 600s at my local libraries, so I'm not sure it's a biography in the same sense as the others I'm reviewing this month. It would not be a great book report choice, but I think it would be a perfect elementary school read-aloud, just like this author/illustrator team's Apples to Oregon.