A pinch of finch? A smidgen of pigeon? Marigold the persnickety perfectionist pussycat knows what his cake doesn’t need—a kitchen filled with toque-headed birdbrains.
But despite best-laid plans (Monday is, after all, baking day), the marmalade cat’s inner sanctum gradually calls to mind Mel Brooks’ version of Hitchcock. When a trio of loons materializes, Marigold loses it. Fangs bared, claws extended, and fur spiked, Marigold explodes in a “full-on feline frenzy!” Throughout the mad apron-slinging and -flinging, the birds remain laughingly unflappable—well, they do flap, but their grins remain in place. Tossing in the towel, he abandons the culinary chaos and stomps from the house. Malbrough’s sprightly illustrations chronicle the comic progression from Marigold’s serene satisfaction to his Vesuvian outbursts. The birds’ reactions are perfect foils to Marigold’s devolution from erudite to feral. The sharply focused watercolors against the crisp white background are as successful as the economic text in setting up Marigold for epic failure. The escalating tension raises expectations of a rousing payoff. To the detriment of the well-developed storyline and lively language, Malbrough appears to vacillate between wanting to develop a mentoring/teaching partnership between Marigold and his avian interlopers and fueling the traditional adversarial cat-bird relationship.
Even taking into consideration the anemic finale, the joy evident in Marigold’s meticulous attention to his confectionery creations may be enough to satisfy young pastry chefs–in-the-making. (Picture book. 3-7)