By: Natalie Babbitt
Date Finished: 08.16.12
The Search for Delicious is delightful in every way. I love the title — especially because it is literal. At first, it sounds like a sappy story involving a child and a lost pet whose great devotion for one another reunites them just before a tragic ending. But there’s a mermaid on the cover which seems incongruous. In this case, the child, Gaylen, travels his kingdom on a mission to find the most accurate definition for the word “delicious.” Instantly more intriguing.
See, the Prime Minister believes that fried fish is the most delicious food, but the king is adamant that it’s apples, while the queen prefers Christmas pudding. The argument grows until the court decides to find out for sure by polling every citizen. They choose young Gaylen to visit each city and record everyone’s answer. But as he travels, the contention over this word only escalates, bringing the country to the brink of civil war.
The book cover includes an assortment of reviews that are useful and actually relate to the book (this often isn’t the case). One blurb in particular captures the essence of the book: “sensitive without ever being sad.” This story covers some serious and delicate topics — from pettiness to transience to tyranny — but it retains a hopeful outlook. The characters are exaggerated, and yet they are all very honest. Everything they do is done with great conviction, so while their actions may be silly, they are deeply sincere. Gaylen interacts so many people on his journey, and Babbit displays a wide range of humanity, exploring how people can react conversely to the same information. It’s a beautiful thing to have a book full of caricatures who are absolutely unique and absolutely knowable.
Prologues are generally forgettable, but this one is essential to introduce the magical elements of the story. Magic has faded to minstrel songs by Gaylen’s time and incomplete songs at that. Gaylen encounters all of the magical creatures (there are only five) on his travels and uncovers scraps of the story the audience already knows. I relished in recognizing the full significance of these fragments while watching Gaylen put the pieces together for himself. And while the magical creatures certainly played a role in the story, the plot had a more human element to it. Gaylen’s quest is strictly non-magical and it’s his humanity that allows him to follow it through.
Now Gaylen is an interesting character. He takes everything in stride, even if it makes him uneasy, and works out connections that no one else sees (except the villain). In all the uproar over the word “delicious,” the audience never knows what Gaylen would choose. He is separate from the controversy which makes him pivotal to the resolution. Gaylen is the perfect guide into this world, someone you can root for and be proud of as he grows. With plenty of angst-ridden protagonists out there, Gaylen is a refreshing character to spend a day with.
The Search for Delicious is a simple read — perfect for a lazy afternoon — but a delectable morsel of literature.
Oh, and for the record: Delicious is freshly baked pumpkin bread with a side of Bluebell homemade vanilla ice cream.
At the end of the day: Really, really for me.