by Dorothy Kunhardt
The New York Review of Books
5 Interesting Stars
Website: WHAT IS JUNKET?
Junket is a delicious custard and a lovely dessert.
But why is the old man with a red beard and red slippers eating such an enormous bowl of junket, and what could he possibly be thinking about while he feasts?
That’s a good question! And one that the old man poses to the crowds and crowds of people that gather to watch him. In fact, almost everyone in the whole world wants to know the answer to this riddle.
And only one little boy has the answer.
This ingenious book of inspired nonsense was the very first from Dorothy Kunhardt, whose Pat the Bunny has delighted generations of young children.
First Sentence: Once there was an old man with a red beard ad red slippers.
What it is About: Junket is Nice is about, well, junket. An old man, a large old man, with a red beard, and red slippers sat outside eating a humongous bowl of junket from a very, very large red bowl. People began wondering why this old man with the red beard ate do much junket. He must be very hungry indeed. They told their friends about him, who told their friends. Soon those that could run the fastest reached the old man first, then those that were slower until the entire world was ready to ask the old man why he ate do much junket. The last to arrive was a little boy on, what else, a red tricycle. The old man told the crowd three things he was not thinking about while eating his junket. He then told them he had a grand surprise for the first person who correctly told him what he was thinking about while eating his junket. No one could guess correctly, for a guess was all they had to offer.
Are you thinking about . . .
“a kangaroo jumping over a glass of orange juice so as not to spill it.”
“. . . a deer with Christmas tree things on his horns waiting around the corner to surprise Santa Claus.”
“. . . a bear climbing a ladder because his toenails are too long for walking on the ground.”
“WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!”
Everyone guessed wrong. The only person left to make a guess was the little boy. He confidently knew what the old man with the red beard was thinking about while eating his large red bowl of junket. And he was right.
What I Think: Junket is Nice is a nonsensical book of goofy possibilities offered by equally goofy adults. The young boy the tricycle was the only one to use any logical thinking. I will not tell you the answer because that would ruin the surprise. I will say the book is made of red everywhere. The old man has a red beard, of course, and red slippers and that huge red bowl. The spreads are outlined in red and most of the people of the world wore red. I am guessing red must have been Ms. Kunhardt’s favorite color, as is mine so I loved the layout.
Originally released in 1933, Junket is Nice is re-released by The New York Review Children’s Collection. Here is the best explanation to what and why this book, and other classics, is being brought back to glorious life:
The New York Review Children’s Collection began in 2003 in an attempt to reward readers who have long wished for the return of their favorite titles and to introduce those books to a new generation of readers. The line publishes picture books for preschoolers through to chapter books and novels for older children. Praised for their elegant design and sturdy bindings, these books set a new standard for the definition of a “classic.”
The cover is a thick board, sturdily and elegantly bound. It looks classic with its simple color tones of red, grey, white and a background light green. It is simply a beautiful book, though quite silly. I do not know if one of today’s publishers would pick up something like this. This is not a typical eight by ten, 32-page picture book.
I am sorry to say I had not heard of Ms. Dorothy Kunhardt prior to receiving her Junket is Nice picture book. Nor had I ever heard of junket. I understand why the people were so curious why this old man ate so much junket. Junket is custard, sweet and sticky. Junket is Nice is a nice introduction to a prolific children’s writer from the past. I enjoyed this tremendously, but then I like silliness, slap-stick, and serious nonsense.
The story is made of nonsense answers that children will enjoy because of the absurdity. Not to be confused with the nonsense words Dr. Seuss often made up. Ms. Kunhardt did not mash up the English language, but rather used it appropriately to write nonsense sentences children will enjoy. The little boy being the only one who answers correctly is perfect. Child protagonists, not silly adults, should conquer children’s books. And what child does not like outwitting their parents and other adults? The New York Review Children’s Collection is planning to publish another Dorothy Kunhardt classic in fall 2013.
Released June 25, 2013
Ages: 3 to 7
© 2013 The New York Review of Books, Children’s Collection, used with permission
Text & Illustrations: Copyright © 1932, renewed © 1961 by Dorothy Kunhardt
DONATED TO LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY
- The New York Review of Books (xlibrispublishinginuk.wordpress.com)