Knight Snacker. By Valeria Wicker.
Little, Brown. $18.99.
The punning title here is but the start of a delightful journey into the
nighttime antics of a bold, brave, adventuring little boy in a quest for that
most crucial of all after-bed requirements: a good-tasting snack after a dinner
that has been thoroughly unappealing. Valeria Wicker invites young readers to
join Sir Julian, hero extraordinaire, after his “tummy-rumbling” hunger is
disappointed at dinnertime by a concoction that his mother calls Fusion Fondue,
which “looked and smelled deadly, like dragon’s ooze.” Sir Julian adeptly acts
as if he is eating the monstrosity while surreptitiously dropping it onto the
floor, where the family dog is quite happy to devour the whatever-it-is.
Mission accomplished – well, mission of avoidance, anyway. But the
larger mission begins at bedtime, when Sir Julian realizes he is
“S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G” and absolutely must
don his knightly raiment and “conquer a scrumptious snack.” The scenes of
little Julian trying to be brave in the dark, when he cannot even reach the
light switch, are funny and emotional (although not too emotional) at the same time: the illustrations here are
digitally created but far warmer and more engaging than are many of that type.
Realizing that going alone on his quest “was too risky,” Sir Julian takes along
a companion – his favorite stuffed animal – and heads out of his room, only to
have “a massive urge to tinkle” and therefore needing to confront a toothy,
hairy, grimacing “potty monster” that is “glowing, ghoulish, and ready to
gobble him up.” Anyone who thinks toilets cannot be funny really needs to see this
Having succeeded in his bold bathroom break, Sir Julian continues
through “the eerie hallway” and endures the approach of a “creepy monster” that
turns out to be the family’s playful pup – only to find himself terrified (his
hair gets very big and bristly) by a
“hideous ghostly figure” just outside the window, which turns out to be “only
And so the journey goes, as the brave (well, sort of brave) young knight
reaches the kitchen and searches for a snack everywhere, even in “Mom’s top
secret spot,” which is apparently not so secret after all. But alas, there are
no snacks anywhere, “maybe from the work of a sorcerer,” and poor Julian ends
up wailing a very un-knightly “NOOOO!”
But then he realizes there must
be some food in the refrigerator – and the good news is that there is. The bad
news: it is Fusion Fondue leftovers. Oh no! Well, at this point “hunger was
like a ferocious, five-horned, fire-breathing dragon,” so Sir Julian calls on
his final reserves of bravery and actually tastes
And it tastes good. Oops. “Too bad he didn’t use his bravery during
supper.” But better late than never, and Sir Julian, his hunger sated at last,
bravely starts his return journey through the dark and dismal world of hallway
and home, determined to call on his knightly prowess again the next time his
mother tries a new recipe.
Wicker does a wonderful job throughout the book with the confluence of knightly derring-do and mundane matters, and the illustrations of Sir Julian are funny and endearing at once – the cover picture of him wearing a colander, brandishing a large spoon, and carrying a soup ladle at his pajama waist perfectly encapsulates the book’s concept even before the story begins. Young readers will have a great time laughing both with Julian and at him (kindly) – perhaps seeing a bit of themselves in his nocturnal activities. And adults can use The Knight Snacker as a soft-pedaled teaching tool, urging young children to try new things, speak up if they do not like a specific food (or think they will not like it), and avoid danger-plagued nighttime food forays that require the use of colander helmets and pot-lid shields. Please.