Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

Book Reviews

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie.

Sternberg, Julie (author). Illustrated by Matthew Cordell.
Mar. 2011. 128p. Abrams/Amulet, hardcover, $14.95 (9780810984240). Grades 2-4.
REVIEW. First published February 15, 2011 (Booklist).

Eleanor Abigail Kane has just experienced an August as dreadful as the black parts on a banana: her beloved babysitter, Bibi, has moved away to Florida to care for her ill father, and Eleanor is bereft. How she grows to love a new babysitter, while still cherishing Bibi, forms the center of this understated early chapter book. The story is told in straightforward, steady verse that echoes the gradual pace of Eleanor’s healing process. Surrounded by adults who are sympathetic to her loss, Eleanor is allowed time to grieve while being gently encouraged to find joy in new experiences and friends. Cordell’s winsome cartoon drawings complement the text without overcrowding the verse. The phrase “pickle juice on a cookie” is used at first to describe something tragic, and then something ridiculous, and fortunately, this title falls into neither category. It tells a simple, poignant story that will resonate with any child who has ever had to say good-bye. — Kara Dean

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Sternberg, Julie.  Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie; illus. by Matthew Cordell.  Amulet/Abrams, 2011.  [128p]
ISBN 978-0-8109-8424-0 $14.95
Reviewed from galleys            R Gr. 2-3

Poor Eleanor is having an August “as bad as the black parts on a banana” because her beloved Bibi, her babysitter ever since she can remember, has suddenly moved away from New York to take care of her ailing father. Grieving for Bibi, eight-year-old Eleanor resists her usual enjoyments, finding them all a painful reminder of her lost friend; perhaps worse still, child care must go on, and her parents hire a new babysitter, Natalie. Sternberg hits all the right notes here, capturing a sensitive kid’s first experience of loss with tender respectfulness and full acknowledgment that separation is a bereavement too. Eleanor’s narration, in compact, informal ragged-right lines that build into brief chapters, is heartfelt, accessible, and energetic, depicting a lively urban existence filled with well-defined routine and a constellation of known associates, from best friends to letter carriers to hairdressers. While it’s less realistic than novelistically convenient that there’s apparently no phone or email contact possible with Bibi, leaving the good old-fashioned letter a key plot point, the postal wait time gives both readers and Eleanor a chance to get used to new babysitter Natalie, who’s clearly got much to offer in her own right. This hits the same sweet spot as Amy Hest’s New York–set titles, and a text that’s suitable for reading alone or aloud gives it additional versatility. Sprightly line drawings, with the same perky homeyness as the story, add visual energy.  DS

Horn Book:
Sternberg, Julie; illus. by Matthew Cordell   Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
Primary    Amulet/Abrams    122 pp.
3/11    978-0-8109-8424-0    $14.95

It’s the summer before the start of third grade, and eight-year-old Eleanor is bereft when her babysitter Bibi moves away to care for her sick father. Her parents tell her that she doesn’t need Bibi as much anymore, and that everything will be okay. “‘Everything will not be okay,’ I said. / ‘This is as bad as somebody dying,’ I said.” Eleanor’s parents treat her with compassion, and her new babysitter Natalie sensitively gives her room to grieve, letting Eleanor set the tone. Gradually, she begins to get over the sharp sting of doing familiar things with a new person and even begins to enjoy doing new things. One day, they set up a lemonade stand; on another, they go on a walk taking pictures of flowers. Most mornings, they sit quietly and even meditatively on a bench in Eleanor’s Brooklyn neighborhood, people-watching and waiting for Val, the letter carrier (and now a friend), to bring Eleanor a letter from Bibi. Sternberg uses short sentences spaced on the page in very short lines, like poetry, and keeps the twenty-seven chapters very brief. The line drawings add humor, while the first-person narration and the authentic and very specific details of Eleanor’s emotional journey will help hook child readers into Eleanor’s story and point of view. susan dove lempke
(from the March/April 2011 Horn Book Magazine)
Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,


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