Friday, October 12, 2018

The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt

Image result for The Search for Delicious, by Natalie Babbitt

It all starts when Prime Minister DeCree begins to write a dictionary. At first, everyone is fine with his definitions for the words, but when he gets to the D's, to "delicious," no one can agree. He wants to put "Delicious is a fried fish" as the definition. But of course, everyone in the royal court has their own favorite foods. The King loves apples. The Queen prefers Christmas pudding, and the Queen's brother, Hemlock, likes nuts. 

Chaos soon ensues, with everyone arguing that the definition of "delicious" should be their favorite food, and no one can agree. To resolve the issue, it is decided that the Prime Minister's 12-year-old adopted son and Special Assistant Vaungaylen ("Gaylen" for short) will ride out and poll everyone in the kingdom for their favorite food. The food that gets the most votes will be the winner and will be put in the dictionary as the definition for "delicious."

Once the poll is made official, Hemlock rides away from the castle. Upon seeing him leave, the King says, "Well, maybe he'll stay away. I wish he would, by Harry. He's always trying to take over and run things." With all the chaos and distrust in the kingdom it would be easy for someone in the kingdom (like Hemlock, maybe?) to go in and stir up a rebellion, to get all the people on his or her side, have them kill the King, then plant himself or herself in charge. 

The very next morning, Gaylen sets out on his journey. He takes the King's swiftest horse, Marrow, to make the trip faster. Gaylen arrives at the first town to be polled, and at first everything goes fine, but soon people are fighting, and shouting out names of foods. The Mayor of the town eventually calms everyone down, but still, it takes three days to poll everyone in the town, and even though there are around 200 people in the town, no two votes are the same. Gaylen is beginning to think that, at this rate, the Prime Minister may have to leave "delicious" out of the dictionary!

On his last night in the town, Gaylen hears from the Mayor that there is a man riding around on a gray horse speaking out against the King. Gaylen immediately knows that this man is Hemlock. The fact that everyone has their own opinion about "delicious" and everyone is fighting about it is bad enough, but Hemlock riding about trying to stir up a rebellion is even worse! And every day, the kingdom steps closer to a civil war. The book comes complete with a map of Gaylen's path through the kingdom, so you can see his whole journey. 

The Search for Delicious is a great children's novel. In a funny and clever way, it shows how most fighting usually starts off with really silly things. I'd recommend it for anyone - kids or adults! - aged 9+. Parents may be familiar with this book as well, it was published around 50 years ago. I'm glad that there is an older book like this that is still not as well known, so today's children can still enjoy some of yesterday's stories, without having them forced upon them and possibly ruined by school. 

Daddy's afterthoughts:  There aren't a lot of books, I think, that do as good a job of providing biting political satire to readers this young as The Search for Delicious. One needs only look as far as the dysfunctional Congress(es) of the last few years to find real-world exemplars of the obtuseness of some of Babbitt's characters. A sweet and light allegory. I really enjoyed it as well.


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