Charming illustrations and a likable protagonist teach children about self-restraint, following rules, and earning rewards.
Zachary Fallon creates a whimsical look at the moral quandaries of a small boy in Diego Dilemma in the Cookie Conundrum. The likable protagonist learns about earning rewards and reasons his way through page after colorful page.
Fallon tells the story of Diego, a young boy who wants a cookie but is told he must “earn” the cookie by eating his vegetables. He does as he’s told, but he later has a vivid dream in which he misbehaves throughout the day and eats several unearned cookies. Then, in a manner equal parts Franz Kafka and Sesame Street, he turns into a cookie and is nearly eaten by his father. The spell is broken when Cookie-Diego eats broccoli and goes to bed. Upon waking, Diego realizes the importance of earning his treats and obeying the guidance of his parents.
Diego’s character resembles any child who basically wants to be good but has selfish and disobedient moments. Morals are at the heart of the story, but the author is not too overbearing in making his case. Diego is given several opportunities to make the right choice, and in each case, a young reader could easily determine and learn from the nature of Diego’s mistakes.
The story is written in a mix of verse and blank prose, reminiscent of nursery rhymes. The target age is four to eight. On occasion, the author uses words that might require a little extra explanation from adults, but in general, the vocabulary is accessible to the very young, and the protagonist is easy to identify with. That said, the plot is pretty predictable, and would not appeal much to slightly older readers.
Illustrator Jordan Jackson’s numerous colorful drawings of Diego (as a boy and as a cookie) and the world around him are a charming complement to the story. Illustrations vary from small sketches positioned between paragraphs to nearly full page, and every page contains some sort of picture. Jackson creates Diego’s world from the vantage point of a small child. Diego’s facial expressions, in particular, come through in the illustrations to allow for reader empathy.
Diego Dilemma in the Cookie Conundrum is fun and sweet and teaches a lesson without being heavy-handed. Children who prefer cookies to rules and broccoli are likely to learn something here.
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