Picture book retrospective: The Cake Maker of Transylvania

For the next few weeks I’m doing a retrospective of my picture books. The second one is The Cake Maker of Transylvania, a vampire love-story, co-written with Mollie Macgregor-Kinnis.

Hugo the vampire wants to be a baker, because Lydia, the girl he fell in love with when he was small, loves bakers and their cakes. Being a vampire, he fulfills his ambition in a vampiric way – he steals the hearts of beautiful women and bakes them into his cakes to make them extra-delicious. But then he finds himself having to bake a cake for Lydia herself, and instead of stealing her heart he wants to give her his own.

This book, like Pilchards, originated in one of Mollie’s doodles, of a vampire-character cutting into a cake with lots of blood or jam oozing out. Later on she did another doodle which I also transferred into the book – she found a clump of turquoise thread on the floor, glued it to a piece of paper and added arms, legs and a face so it turned into a picture of a girl dancing.

To be honest I find the book as a whole slightly unsatisfactory. The balance between words and pictures isn’t right: too many words on some pages, not enough on others. The pictures themselves waver between cartoonish and realistic. But there’s some good writing, and the idea of cutting out people’s hearts, then offering them back to their owners as gourmet delicacies, has a satisfying symbolism to it. My favourite illustrations show Bangers the butler standing at the front door in the pouring rain, and Lydia in her turquoise party frock doing a little dance with a slice of cake in her hand.

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