Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament

Québécoise author Anne Renaud (Missuk's Snow Geese) and Italian illustrator Felicita Sala team up for a crisp, delightful envisioning of the birth of that American culinary classic, the potato chip.

In 1850s Saratoga Springs, N.Y., customers flock to Crum's Place to devour delicacies cooked by George Crum, shown flipping a flapjack with smiling poise, and served by cheery-cheeked, flame-haired waitress Gladys. Known for his sense of humor as well as his kitchen skills, Crum finds himself flummoxed when he meets "finicky, persnickety" customer Filbert P. Horsefeathers, resplendent in a purple-plumed top hat, polka-dotted cravat and sunflower boutonniere. Filbert sends back three plates, complaining his potatoes are too thick, too bland and undercooked. Deciding to have a little fun with the demanding diner, George sends a plate of finely shaved, crispy-fried spuds, but the joke happily backfires when Filbert adores the creation, and so Crum's Crisp Crispies--potato chips--are born.

Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament showcases American humor and ingenuity at its finest. Studded with playful phrases like "prickly porcupine pie," Renaud's vivacious vocabulary builder of a story sings alongside Sala's feather-soft watercolor and pencil depictions of George, who was of African American and Native American descent, ruddy-faced Filbert and a full house of diverse customers. An afterword to this "fictional tale with a helping of truth" explains that Crum's legend has roots in reality, even if no single cook can take credit for the chip. Readers age five through nine will giggle at this mischievous morsel. Bet you can't read it just once! --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager, Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

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