Friday, April 15, 2011

"I'll clean up my act when I'm good and ripe!"

Karl Beckstrand's bizarrely funny picture book Bad Bananas (Premio, June) shows how good bananas go wrong. Fresh from the grocery store, they're sweet and "conform nicely to the bunch," but before you know it they're "borrowing" the fruit bowl for joyrides and loitering in "dimly lit lunchboxes." The fair trade and organic labels of their innocent youth are replaced by tattoo-like stickers proclaiming Del Malo, Un-Organic, or Dull. When rival fruits try to stand up to these hoodlums, insults fly: "Your mother's a raisin!" Most of illustrator Jeff Faerber's illustrations style the bad apples bananas as gang-banger types or skate punks—but some go fully Dark Side, like a Darth Vader-ish villain and a pirate banana walking the plank into a frying pan.

Just when you think there's no hope—they're just a bad bunch—salvation appears in the form of banana-based recipes. Cookies, fruit salad, pancakes, and more give these bananas a second chance. I made "banana redemption muffins" (with the "optional" chocolate chips, of course) and brought them into the office. A little dense (probably from my forgetting the baking powder rather than any defect in the recipe), they were still delicious, and an excellent use for the overripe bananas stinking up my kitchen. And while I can't say my baking received "four stars from The Banana Post," I'll take an appreciative "mmm" from The Horn Book staff any day.

—Katie Bircher

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