Fiction or nonfiction? It’s often tough for me to classify Tomie dePaola’s work. His biography of Pascual Bailon, Pascual and the Kitchen Angels (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004), is truly creative nonfiction at its best.
Using playful illustrations and captivating prose, dePaola recreates the story of Saint Pascual, a shepherd boy who yearns to be a friar and feed the hungry. When Pascual arrives at the monastery with tasty food from his mama, the friars ask him to cook a dinner. Pascual has no idea how to cook. What can he do? Why, pray, of course.
While Pascual is praying, the kitchen angels appear turning his ingredients into tasty dishes. This happens night after night. The curious friars want to know how Pascual produces his delicious dishes. When they see Pascual’s piety and how God has blessed him, they fulfill his wish of helping to feed the hungry.
Cooper, my five-year-old, loves the magic of the kitchen angels zipping around the kitchen to boil beans, chop vegetables and slice cheese. DePaola’s drawing are hilarious and half the fun. Pascual and the Kitchen Angels is what all nonfiction should be — a great story first and a lesson second. For those who are interested, dePaola includes a note in the back matter with the legend of Saint Pascual.
I’m contemplating a biographical picture book for my February 12 x 12 in 2012 manuscript. I think I’ll use dePaola as my inspiration.