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The Search for Delicious    by Natalie Babbitt order for
Search for Delicious
by Natalie Babbitt
Order:  USA  Can
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005 (1969)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Enjoy The Search for Delicious just for the story, or as an allegory about the silly things that people young and old find to argue (and even start wars) about. In this case, it's the true meaning of delicious that results in squabbles and conflict, all of which make a kingdom vulnerable to an ambitious man. I love the opening - into a time when the earth was young, 'long before there were any people about to dig parts of it up and cut parts of it off.'

In these 'oldest days', we're told of 'dwarfs in the mountains, woldwellers in the forests, mermaids in the lakes, and, of course, winds in the air.' One of the dwarfs makes a doll from linked stones and a fern for a lovely young mermaid, Ardis. It becomes her prized possession and this story tells of its loss to a minstrel, her long centuries of mourning, and its eventual recovery by a kind twelve-year old boy named Gaylen, a skinny foundling adopted by a Prime Minister, and made his 'Special Assistant'.

In a way, it's the Prime Minister who starts all the trouble by writing a dictionary. When he gets to 'D', no-one can agree on the meaning of 'Delicious', and everyone gets ornery about it. So the King sends Gaylen to survey all the folk in the four towns of the kingdom. Which might have been okay, except that the Queen's ambitious brother Hemlock (who thinks nuts are delicious) precedes him, fomenting trouble. Gaylen has the usual (rather whimsical) adventures, meeting all the elder races, while civil war erupts around him.

Though Gaylen gets a bit fed up with the absurdity of his elders and their arguments, he does intervene when necessary, resolves the true meaning of delicious, and wins the happily ever after he deserves ... which includes a family trip every April 'into the forest ... up in the mountains and around the lake' where it all started.

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