“It was like this,” said the Prime Minister…”I went down, you see, to show the King how far I’ve gone on my dictionary. He was pleased with the first part. He liked ‘Affectionate is your dog’ and ‘Annoying is a loose boot in a muddy place’ and so on…As a matter of fact, there was no trouble with any of the A’s or B’s and the C’s were fine too…But then we got to ‘Delicious is fried fish’ and he said, no, I’d have to change that. He doesn’t care for fried fish. The General of the Armies was standing there and he said that, as far as he was concerned, Delicious is a mug of beer, and the Queen said no, Delicious is a Christmas pudding, and then the King said nonsense, everyone knew the most delicious thing is an apple, and they all began quarreling…When I left, they were all yelling and shouting and shaking their fists.
“Why don’t you just leave Delicious out of the dictionary?”
“I can’t do that,” said the Prime Minister. “If this is going to be a proper dictionary, I can’t leave anything out.”
How would you define Delicious? This vexing question apparently can only be solved by polling all the people in the kingdom. Therefore, twelve-year-old Gaylen, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, is sent out on horseback with the King’s proclamation, a large notebook, and plenty of pens and ink, to discover the answer.
The survey, however, causes a deal of cantankerous quarreling. And the scoundrel Hemlock is riding about the countryside taking advantage of all this irritation for his own evil purposes. It seems that a civil war may be brewing! Is that what Hemlock wants?
Meanwhile, we learn about the Long Ago, when wolddwellers, dwarves, and mermaids lived in an unspoilt world. And of a special whistle-key, lost by a lovely young mermaid named Ardis, and found by a wandering minstrel.
Babbitt’s magical story weaves all these curious elements together in a fantastic, charming, suspenseful plot. Gaylen’s journeys introduce him to a 900-year-old wolddweller with extremely long, snarled gray hair, a delightful little girl named Medley,and Maunder, an unusually talkative crow ,among many other unusual characters. As Hemlock plots and Gaylen travels, an ominous threat to the kingdom grows, until…well, of course, the story ends happily, and, quite by accident, the most apt definition for Delicious is discovered!
This is a Delightful story! It makes a great read-aloud for a wide age-span, and is appealing to both boys and girls.