Reviewed by Ian Thomas Shaw
Geza Tatrallyay, a prolific author of thrillers, a memoirist and a poet, has now ventured into the world of illustrated children's literature. The story for his debut children's book, The Waffle and the Pancake, was originally written for his children who now read it avidly to their own children. It is a beautiful story, which deserves a broad readership.
Couched in the language of traditional European fables, the story takes place in a small village, this time not in Europe but America, and features the adventures of two siblings, Alexandra and Nicholas (named after Geza's own children). The two children wake up one Saturday morning to find their hard-working mother ill in bed. Eager to find some way to make their mother feel better, they set out into the forest to pick berries for a delicious lunch.
The two children soon become so intent on finding more and more berries and eating great quantities of them on the way, that they lose track of where they are. Of course, forests in America like in the Grimm Brother's Europe are full of witches, ogres and giants, and it doesn't take long for Alexandra and Nicholas to stumble across all three. Luckily for the pair, a friendly giant saves them from the clutches of an evil witch and then a pimply ogre, flattening both these villains with his giant foot into a waffle and a pancake. The story does not end there. The witch-waffle is wolfed down by the friendly giant as a tasty snack, and the ogre-pancake is kicked by the giant far across the ocean to end up at the home of his cousin in England, who promptly lunches on it with maple syrup. And of course, because giants know everything, the first giant also cures Alexandra's and Nicholas' mom with some magic forest mushrooms.
Tatrallyay brilliantly revives the Grimm Brothers' story-telling tradition where preposterous stories of witches, ogres and giants are designed not to frighten young children but to elicit laughter and a few “yucks.” There is also the underlying safety message in the story about keeping track of where you are at all times, but this is conveyed in a non-traumatizing way. This subtler approach through story-telling might be a useful alternative to constantly lecturing young children about safety and teaching them to indiscriminately distrust all strangers. Tatrallyay also throws in a couple of cell phones for our gigantic hero to speak to his cousin in the UK, bringing his story into the 21st century.
The Waffle and the Pancake is a highly recommended buy for parents with children from three to five, not to mention grandparents with grandchildren in that age group. It is simply enough written that it would also make for good reading by six- and seven-year-old children to their younger siblings.
The Waffle and the Pancake is published by Bayeux Arts Publishing in Calgary.