Life is sweet.... Well, almost.
Dessert Schneider has her very own personal style. For starters, she signs her name like this:
Because all you really need in the world is a Maraschino cherry.... Plus something to put it on top of, like a hot-fudge sundae or a cornflake-cream-cheese cookie or a banana split.
But sometimes walking to the beat of her own drum means walking right into a heap of mischief, especially when it comes to the legendary family recipe (and Dessert's all-time favorite chocolate treat), Grandma Reine's Double-Decker Chocolate Bars. As the oldest child in a rambunctious, restaurant-owning family, Dessert seems to be better at getting into trouble than getting out of it. And that's because for this eight-year-old, saying sorry is definitely not a piece o' cake!
About the Author
Hallie Durand’s favorite dessert is vanilla ice cream drowned in hot-fudge sauce. She grew up in a large, food-loving family much like the one in her books. But unlike Dessert, Hallie had to eat dessert after supper. When she’s not writing, she likes to visit fondue restaurants to do “research.” Hallie lives with her family in New Jersey.
Christine Davenier’s favorite dessert is profiterole au chocolat. She is the illustrator of many books for children including the Iris and Walter series by Elissa Haden Guest and The First Thing My Mama Told Me by Susan Marie Swanson, for which Christine received a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year Award. She lives in Paris.
Read an Excerpt
MRS. HOWDY DOODY
I don't know if Mrs. Howdy Doody is her real God-given name or not, but on the very f irst day of third grade, our teacher told us to call her that. She also told us, on that very f irst day, to march to our own drummers. Then she said, "Watch and learn." And right there in front of us, even though we didn't know her very well, she put on her white snowball slippers and marched around the classroom. She has big feet, and she took big steps, but she didn't make a sound because of the slippers.
"It's time to get acquainted," she said when she sat back down. I didn't know what to expect after the marching, but she reached under her desk and brought out a shiny piece of wood. She held it up for the class to see it had a pair of roller skates and a pair of swim f ins painted on it. "This is my coat of arms," she said, "and you can see that it tells you something about me. It tells you that I am a creature of land and sea, for starters.
"Now, reach into your desk," she said. I was disappointed that the "watching" part hadn't lasted very long, but I put my hand in my desk and pulled out a shiny piece of wood just like Mrs. Howdy Doody's. I reached in again and pulled out a perfectly new set of paints, with a brand-new brush for each color. From what I could tell, Mrs. Howdy Doody and I were going to get along pretty well.
"You now have your raw materials," she said, as she held up her coat of arms again. "Traditionally," she continued, "a coat of arms is used to indicate your family dis-tinctions. But I want yours to tell me what you are most passionate about.
"My dear happy learners," she said, "show me what you love!"
I'd never been called a happy learner before, and I wasn't sure I liked it, but I did try to think about what I loved. I saw that Donnie and Billy were already painting action f igures. Donnie and Billy are twins, and I've known them for a long time. For sure, action f igures are their passion. They always have a few in their pockets. Then Melissa R. asked if she could use rubber cement, and Emily V. asked for glitter. I didn't understand how they all knew what to do so fast.
Even Amy D. had something already. It was either a roller coaster or my sister Charlie's hair (they look the same the way she draws). I couldn't believe I was stuck in the same class as Amy D. again. We've been enemies since f irst grade, ever since she stuf fed leaves in my mouth and called me "Tree."
It still makes me mad to think about that Leaf Stuf fer, and here she was almost finished with her coat of arms when I hadn't even started.
What oh what did I love?
It certainly wasn't Charlie, and it certainly wasn't either of my brothers, Wolfgang or Mushy (they could be cute once in a while but not all the time). And it certainly was not mayonnaise. Just thinking about mayonnaise made me sick. There was only one thing I knew that I loved all the time. And that was my dog, Chunky he's been with me since I was one. I wouldn't even need all the paints to color him; all I needed was black and white. I drew him to f ill up the entire board because he is big he's part Rotty. I added a few gray hairs around his eyes, just to let people know how wise he is.
Then I signed my name.
You might want to know about the cherry. I call it f lair. It could be on top of a banana split, a cornf lake-cream-cheese cookie, a hot-fudge sundae, or even a freshly baked lemon square, like the ones Mummy made last night. Also, it shows my personal style.
Mrs. Howdy Doody came by and said, "That looks like a very large dog to me."
"This is Chunky," I said. "I've known him since I was one that makes him forty-nine years old in our system."
"That's almost half a lifetime," Mrs. Howdy Doody said. Then she looked at my signature and said, "What in the wide world is that, Dessert Schneider?"
"It's a cherry," I said.
"Yes," I said. "A maraschino cherry."
"A maraschino cherry," said Mrs. Howdy Doody. "When it comes right down to it, that's really all you need in life, isn't it?"
"Plus something to put it on," I said, and we nodded at each other. I was convinced it was going to be an amazing year (except for Amy D.).
Text copyright © 2009 by Hallie Durand
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was a simple book about a girl entering third grade where she meets her eccentric teacher Mrs. Howdy Doody. Mrs. Howdy Doody teachers her students that they need to march to their own drum. She is heading a fund raiser to build a tree house at the school. Students are asked to give up something for two weeks and find people to sponsor them. Dessert's parents own a Fondue Restaurant and have enough children to keep them busy. Dessert decides they should eat dessert first because she is marching to her own drum and the parents disagree. She finally convinces them to eat dessert first and they find that dinner time is more peaceful. When her mother makes a delicious treat for a special occassion Dessert eats it. She finds a creative way to fix the situation, keep her pledge of giving up what is most precious for two weeks.
Dessert Schneider doesn't know what to think on the first day of third grade when her teacher introduces herself as Mrs. Howdy Doody and starts marching around in fluffy white slippers. But then Mrs. Howdy Doody tells the class that they should all find their own personal style and march to their very own drummers. And Dessert kind of likes that idea because it means she might have a chance to eat dessert first (before dinner) once in a while--if she marches just right. Dessert comes from a family of foodies. Her younger sister Charlie and brothers Wolfie and Mushy all love food. And her parents own Fondue Paris, a very cool restaurant specializing in all things fondue. Coming from this background, it is no surpise that Dessert signs her name with a Maraschino cherry anymore than she believes that cherry is all you need in life, along with something to put the cherry on of course. The problem with belonging to a food family, though, is that sometimes food--especially sweet chocolately foods--can be really distracting. When Dessert discovers an off limit box of special Double-Decker Bars at home, she knows she has to try just one. At least, it was supposed to be just one. Sometimes, without Dessert meaning to, things get out of hand because she spends too much time getting into trouble and not enough time thinking about how to avoid it. Dessert First by Hallie Durand (with illustrations by Christine Davenier) is the first book about Dessert Schneider and her family. While not as good as the first Clementine book (possibly because it's just plain shorter), I saw a lot of similarities between the two books. Dessert is a really likable eight-year-old with a fascinating family. The illustrations add a lot to the story as well. Sometimes I find myself dissappointed, after seeing the colorful cover, to discover that a book has black-and-white illustrations but Davenier's are done with thick lines and bold geometric patterns (mostly on Dessert's dresses) that really make them work. That said, some aspects of the plot did bother me. I was never a eat-dessert-first kind of kid so I found Dessert's singular interest in the matter to be . . . interersting. An eight-year-old sneaking not one but twelve brownies without anyone noticing was also interesting. It set up a chance to learn an important lesson, but it was also just strange because Dessert didn't seem to have any self control. I get it in terms of the story but I wonder if it could happen in the real world. Finally, I had issues with the Doody Drive at the end of the story where all of the elementary school is asked to give up something they love for two weeks to pledge money to build a tree house. It just seemed bizarre and not entirely appropriate for a grade school to me. Maybe that's just me. . . . Weird bits aside, I see big things in Dessert's future and hope that Dessert First leads to bigger and better installments about the Schneider family.
This book was so funny. I mean, there is a whole page that looks like this: "AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" screamed Mummy. How funnier can you get? I always have some way to complain about a book, but not for this one!