Imagine waking up one morning only to realize you are no longer your parents' favorite child. Instead, your annoying sister, Charlie, gets to relax while you bring in the groceries and your two toddler brothers, collectively called the Beasties, get the biggest pieces of dessert. Even your school picture has been covered up by a messy disaster of a poster by your brother, Wolfie. Welcome to the life of Dessert Schneider, the protagonist of the engaging Dessert series by Hallie Durand.
I discovered Durand's work at a local independent bookseller for children near my home. I was immediately drawn into Dessert's struggle to get her fondue restaurant-owning parents to allow the family to eat "Dessert First" every evening.
In No Room for Dessert, her latest adventure, Dessert is desperate to regain her parents' undying love by winning first place in her school's Thomas Edison Invention Contest. Always creative, Dessert brainstorms a vast array of inventions to submit, such as the Hidden-Scale Plate (to make sure she doesn't get the smallest piece of cake at dinner) and the electric "Collar & Crib" system (to keep her brothers from shaking their crib bars in the morning).
I appreciate the emotional honesty that shines through each of the Dessert stories. One can easily imagine any young girl coming up with the same schemes and engaging in the same shenanigans as Dessert. Yet the author does a nice job constructing the stories in such a way that Dessert learns valuable lessons each time without destroying the entertainment value.
In No Room for Dessert, Durand illuminates the complex emotions kids can have when they realize their younger siblings are "stealing" a great deal of their parents' time and attention. As the oldest of four children, Dessert feels sidelined by the needs of her sister and brothers. By funneling her jealousy into creative "inventions" for her school contest, she is able to buoy up her flagging self-esteem. She does not win the contest, however, despite stealing the prototype of the invention of a classmate. Instead she comes in dead last. This was a wonderful choice on Durand's part as it allows Dessert the opportunity to learn from her mistake and also to discover the truth of the love her parents have had for her all along, whether she is a contest winner or just herself.