By Sara Varon
Cupcake’s life is pretty good. He’s got his bakery, and his band, and his best friend, Eggplant. His days are full of cooking, socializing, and playing music. But lately, Cupcake has been struggling in the kitchen. He’s sure the solution to all his problems is out there somewhere. But maybe that solution is hiding closer to home.
Sometimes it’s the little things that stick in your mind when reading something … like “isn’t it weird for a cupcake to own a cake shop making and selling miniature versions of oneself?” That’s what I found oh so difficult to shake off all the way through Bake Sale. But that’s my problem, and although it rather spoilt my enjoyment of Varon’s graphic novel, I’m pretty sure this will go down a storm with the children in the school graphic novel library.
On the face of it, Bake Sale is a simple little story, full of big panels, big figures, and much sweetness, but Varon does work very hard, maybe a little too hard, to introduce conflict into poor Cupcake’s life.
And it doesn’t take all that much to turn content Cupcake, happy running his bakery, happy playing in his band, happy with his best friend, Eggplant into not so content Cupcake. The lure of going to see Eggplant’s Aunt and her partner, the great Turkish Delight, begin eating away at his content little life.
Soon he’s concentrating everything he can into getting the money together for a trip with Eggplant the following year, organising bake sale after inventive bake sale, leaving his beloved band, relying more and more on Eggplant to help out in the bakery. Struggling with too much work, will he be able to keep the bakery running as smoothly as always, will he get the money together in time?
It doesn’t take any kind of genius to work out where it’s going, but that’s not the point really. This is all about gentle storytelling, broad strokes suitable for young children. And Varon’s big, big art suits the story so well, with a really bright palette that’s perfect for the sugary tale she’s telling.
But despite it being enjoyable enough, it felt (oh the irony) just a little too sugary and light, a little lacking in substance. I was hoping for, expecting, just that little more substance from early on, hoping Varon would play on the difficulties the two best friends had, wanting to see her expand just a little on some of the promising ideas of friendship, of striving for that which is simply out of reach. I felt she wanted to get more of that into Bake Sale, and I’d have been more than happy if she had.
But at the end, although a little too sugary sweet and lightweight for me, I’m sure it will hit just the right spot for our younger readers, who’ll enjoy it for all the sweetness and simplicity inside.