“The first in a series of unique retellings of cinematic masterpieces adapted for children, this wild and whimsical tale takes on one of the greatest films of all time.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Raja Sen’s debut is a limerick filled illustration packed picture book just the right size for five to eight-year-old hands to grip. The Best Baker in the World is at one level a morality tale, the story of Don Cannoli who bales delicious cakes and gives them away. All he asks in return is that people be good to him. The Don has a large extended family, sons called Sonny and Michael and a happy life filled with the delicious aroma of baking.
Into their life comes the evil Turk who makes sugary sweet hard candies and after refusing to stock the candies, the Don has an accident which confines him to bed and writes him off from the annual Cake Off, something he’s been winning again and again.
His family pulls together to try and save the day and it is the unlikeliest of his sons comes forward to step into the Don’s shoes, Michael the intellectual of the family who would prefer to be an Oxford don rather than anything else.
All this is well and good for raising a giggle among kids but, there’s the rub. The Best Baker in the World is designed as a tongue in cheek tribute to The Godfather. Don Corleone is reinvented as Don Cannoli, who is an owl, Luca Brasi is a rhinoceros – all the characters are animals and birds – and Michael is a raven. In a menagerie of bats, mice, camels and other creatures, Raja Sen deftly twists in references to The Godfather. Even Francis Ford Coppola has a bit part as Judge Francis. The horse’s head incident is reinvented as the destruction of a rocking horse after a kerfuffle over the Don’s favourite singer. Presumably there’s a double agenda to this – movie watching adults are meant to read this to their children secretly enjoying the references and keeping them close to their chests while reading out the limericks.
Sen does yeoman service in matching the lines – though occasionally they do fall short of true limerickness and in today’s world sadly, few children will notice that, though the Godfather fans might.
The Best Baker in the World is a concept – Coppola fans will flaunt it on their bookshelves and make it a talking point at parties because talking point it certainly is. Raja Sen refers to the book as his first matinee and that is precisely the term of reference. There are more movie tributes on the cards from Sen’s pen. Whether in limericks or not remains to be seen.
Added 1st December 2017