Cupcakes of Doom! (Don’t Eat Any Bugs)

cupcakes-header.jpgIt’s pirates vs. vikings in a culinary fight to the finish in this light-hearted tale.

 

 

100 pgs., color; $12.95

(W / A: Ray Friesen)

 

Puns and pirates and penguins, oh my! According to the age advisory on the back of Cupcakes of Doom!, the recommended reader is either a child or "young-at-heart older people who still like this sort of thing," which appropriately sets the tone for the book. It’s more than a little Spongebob at heart and, really, which of us couldn’t use a bit more of that in our lives, even for a brief moment?

The premise of the book is a cooking showdown straight out of my dreams, only instead of Martha Stewart taking on Anthony Bourdain, we have Pirates versus Vikings in a battle for culinary domination of their small kingdom. It all starts when Deliciously-Evil Viking Pie surpasses home-made Pirate Cookies in the hearts of the populace, leaving Gramma Scurvy’s bakery sadly empty of customers after a Viccucino opens across the street. Her grandson, Captain Scurvybeard, isn’t faring any better since being arrested for attempting to take over the kingdom and possibly eating the King’s mayonnaise. Lucky for him, Pirates have decent union benefits and the Pirate Union sends a lawyer. Unluckily, the lawyer happens to be an auditor who wonders just how Captain Scurvybeard’s running things around here since he ended up in such a mess.

No one likes getting audited and, as one might suspect, a piratical audit is a little different. Scurvybeard’s crew don’t help matters much by vanishing almost immediately after Gramma puts them and the auditor to work. We follow Joe on a date with the cooler-than-thou Amber, which may be ruined or improved when he insults a passing Viking, leading to a lot of swashbuckling and tickling. There’s a fairly funny interlude between some junior pirates that anyone with a sibling will recognize. Eventually, Joe and Amber meet up with the rest of the crew for pizza and pirate word problems. There are quests and an amusing sea-serpent on the way to the ultimate showdown between the laid-back Pirates and the corporate Vikings.

Fortunately for our good Captain, his Gramma has something that might prove his worth to the Union and save her bakery. Legend has it that there’s a baked good recipe out there so amazing that it will make the public forget all about those lousy Vikings and their delicious Viking Pie. They just need to find it in time for their annual Pirate Wednesday festival, which will hopefully be the best one ever!

Naturally, my plot summary has to stop there since I’d hate to ruin it for you. Cupcakes of Doom!, while a fun and surreal ride, is absolutely something you’d want to buy for a child in your life that you’re encouraging to follow in your nerdly footsteps and, while you’re wrapping it, give yourself a few minutes for a quick flip. In fact, the book has more than a few of what I’m told parents in the know are calling "teaching moments," mostly about getting along with people and a few surprising ones about loyalty. Fortunately, there’s enough ridiculous humor to keep the story from getting bogged down during these times.

The art and colors are surprisingly fun and very appealing and there are some incredibly funny moments but the story has pacing issues in a few places. Pay close attention to what’s going on so you can remember it later because, in the ultimately rapid development of the story, you might need it. Friesen’s unique blend of humor shows in interesting places, such as his characterization of the Vikings and his sea-serpent guest star. In fact, the book is populated with likeable characters that tend to pop up in unexpected places. I expect we’ll see Ray Friesen popping up in unexpected places himself in the future and I’d definitely give future efforts a look. | Erin Jameson

To learn more or check out a free sample, visit Ray Friesen’s website at http://www.donteatanybugs.net/.

 

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