My eldest son, foodie, pie connoisseur, and blog helper

The name of this book seals it for me. I was laughing before I even opened it. Is that an homage to Star Trek I spy? Spock on.

I had three picture books staring at me. I read all of them in one go and debated as to which one would be my first review of the grand ol’ 2017. I kept coming back to ARCHIE by author/illustrator Katie Harnett (Flying Eye Books). (For the love of all things, I’m not going to type out the entire title again). So, it won the race. It won the coveted (I’m absolutely joking) position of being my first review of 2017.

This book, for ages 3-5 although my 7- and 9-year-old kids loved it, is about a cat. The cat. A cat with many names. (Again, I will not be typing them all out.) The cat lives on Blossom Street — a busy street — and visits many, many neighbors who give the cat various names and offers the cat various things — a fish, a dance, snuggles, you name it. But the cat never seems fulfilled. He is always searching, searching. His busy life visiting all his busy neighbors should be enough, until he comes upon the elderly neighbor he has never visited before. She is not busy. No one ever visits her. She lives a calm life, alone, with plenty of time to put her feet up by the fire and knit. She invites the cat in. Well, the other neighbors are up-in-arms. Where has their Archie gone? Where has Cupcake disappeared to? Snufflekins, Tiberius, where are you? Realizing they are all looking for the same cat, they come upon #11 Blossom Street and find the cat, who doesn’t want to leave the little old lady. Instead, the cat brings everyone to her.

I’m a fan of books about community, particularly when the communities are diverse — different ages, ethnicities, genders, etc. I also enjoyed the idea of exploring and branching out. Seeking out that neighbor who rarely leaves the house but may have a lot to offer. The little old lady certainly had a lot to offer the cat, as its well-drawn X-of-a-mouth turns into a smile by the end. It had found its home.

One other thing about this book: the colored-pencil illustrations and the quirky vignette style brought me right to Blossom Street. (I kinda want to live there.)

On to the tasty portion of the review…if this book were a pie. My kids have been obsessed with pies recently. Maybe it’s genetic? So, they’ve decided this book is an old-fashioned tart cherry pie. Ohhhhh yeeeeaaaaah. One of my favorites. The recipe follows. Do indulge in this one. I dare you.

Tart Cherry Pie

(Use the crust recipe in my previous blog post.)

2 14.5 oz cans of Oregon Fruit Pitted Red Tart Cherries in Water

3/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon red food coloring (optional, but makes the pie really pretty)

Drain cherries, reserving one cup of liquid. In a saucepan, combine sugar, flour, and salt. Stir in cherry liquid and bring to a boil over low heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes; mixture will thicken.

When mixture thickens, add butter, almond extract, food coloring, and cherries. Pour into previously rolled out pie shell. Cover with a lattice of your choice, and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees for the bottom crust to bake. No one wants a soggy bottom. Lower the oven temp to 375 degrees, cover the pie with foil to protect the lattice from burning, and bake for approximately 40 minutes more or until crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Viola!