This new illustrated children's book offers a delicious take on The Godfather

Updated: Nov 26, 2017, 14:42 IST | Jane Borges | Mumbai

A new illustrated children's book offers a delicious take on the American cult drama, The Godfather

What if we told you that Don of The Godfather had an alter ego, who was a beefy, wise old owl with a yellow beak, and, that he didn't lead the Italiani Mafia with guns and goons, but baked delicious pastries in his kitchen? In a new children's book, writer Raja Sen and illustrator Vishal K Bharadwaj will make you believe so. The Best Baker In the World (Puffin Books, Penguin), the first offering in Sen's My First Matinee series for kids, is a take on Francis Ford Coppola's American cult movie The Godfather (1972) that chronicles the story of a mafiosi family from Sicily under its ageing patriarch Vito Corleone. And, possibly for the umpteenth time, you might fall in love with the fictional Sicilian saga. Only now, it's not the stellar performances, but the adorably illustrated characters, and a narrative told in limericks, that keep you hooked.

"The idea of the series was to take adult cinema - mature masterpieces, mostly R-rated films, films decidedly unsuitable for children - and set them entirely in an innocent and whimsical world," said Sen, also a noted film critic. "This is because I believe great cinema can, like the works of Shakespeare, be adapted into dramatically different contexts and styles, and still click into place on a storytelling level. The characters, the lines, the moments, the conflicts - all of that still holds up even without blood or violence or sex," he added.

Vishal K Bharadwaj
Vishal K Bharadwaj

The protagonist as we learn is Don Cannoli, whose pastries and éclairs are the stuff of legend. Fans wait in line for hours for a bite of his cakes. His children, by the way, don't share his physical attributes or his skill. The boisterous Bear, his eldest child, is predictably named Sonny, while Freddo is a cat, and the youngest, Michael, is a clever raven, who turns central to keeping the family business alive. "The decision to make the characters of The Godfather animals happened during our initial month of discussion," said Bharadwaj. "Raja's story was different enough from The Godfather… and just having illustrated versions of the movie's cast didn't feel right. Animals allowed us to explore, who these characters really were without the baggage of looking like caricatures of some movie star," he added.

Raja Sen
Raja Sen

The book, like the original, opens with Don's daughter Connie's birthday party. The drama unfolds when Don has an accident, and the big Cake-Off competition is just some days away. The question now is who will fit into Don's oversized apron and take his legacy forward. If you're a fan of The Godfather, you probably don't need any help guessing, but what makes this book interesting is how tactfully it changes a macabre tale into something more delicious. "More than anything, The Godfather is a film about family - a family business, if you will. It is also a specifically Italian family film, which means food features heavily. Thus, a bakery seemed both appropriate for the task and suitably inviting for a children's setting. As a bonus, Vishal loves cooking and photographing food, and I knew he'd draw mouthwatering pastry," said Sen.

The fact that the entire story is told in limericks, gives the story a rhythm and bounce. And, then there's also a simple moral the kids will take back - Just be nice to me and to all the guys, says Don. We think that's an offer you can't refuse.

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