SPRING HILL — Eight-year-old Ellie Chase meticulously placed "pebbles," or pomegranate seeds, around the base of her "palm tree," a trio of stout carrots sprouting "fronds" of leaf lettuce and celery tops.
The make-believe sculpture depicted the upright for her edible interpretation of The Magic Tree House, a children's book series written by Mary Pope Anderson.
The tasty entry created by Ellie and her mother, Sara Chase, of Webster captured the People's Choice Award in the first Edible Book Contest sponsored recently by the Hernando County Library System.
Ellie pointed out the composition's combustibles: the little treehouse built of chocolate graham cracker blocks cemented together with melted chocolate chips, tree trunk steps cut from slices of hard cheese, a triangular treetop flag snipped from an apple peel, the supporting landscape represented by a spinach tortilla, with stepping-stones broken from more chocolate crackers.
The book series is her favorite.
"I read 20 so far," said Ellie.
The youngster no sooner set up her entry than she dashed to the children's section at the Spring Hill Branch/Harold G. Zopp Memorial Library, returning with a new Anderson hardback and sitting down to read while awaiting the judges' appearance.
Reference librarian Peter Tuite, searching for new programs, borrowed the eat-your-words idea from a library in Seattle.
Said one of a trio of judges, youth services librarian Justin King, as he toured the tables of delectables: "I really like how it gives people an opportunity to be creative, to use their brain power to come up with something out of a book, to look at a book in a different way and give it a culinary perspective."
Reference librarian Robin Brevard, co-chairwoman of the program and also a judge, didn't lament the mere nine entries.
"It was the first time, and it was the day before Easter," Brevard said.
Added Tuite: "I'm hoping this one is sort of a promo to get the next one off the ground."
Branch library supervisor and judge Colleen Luddington noted the People's Choice judging garnered 60 ballots, indicating that the event was a success beyond the number of contestants.
"So, we're looking forward to another one, maybe this summer," Luddington said.
Contestants ranged in age from 4 to 78, and winners were based on both creativity and taste.
• Most Edible: "Monster from the Deep," book of the same title, a tube-pan chocolate-pistachio marble cake lathered in pale green frosting, with eight darker-green frosting tentacles curling outward from a central head with monster eyes, created by Heidi Meyers of Weeki Wachee.
• Punniest: "Rums of Autumn," a take on Drums of Autumn, a miniature bottle of rum, a shot glass and a silver flask, arranged by Elaine Orlando of Spring Hill.
• Best Depiction of a Classic: "Catch 22," book of the same title, a catcher's mitt of cocoa Rice Krispies laden with 22 sugar cookies frosted like baseballs, complete with stitching, by Haillie McCarthy and Kayla McCarthy of Spring Hill.
• Best Based on Fiction: "The Candy Shop War," book of the same title, cake pop warriors in battle formation poised before a candy shop made from a cake mix box, by Lexie Meyers of Weeki Wachee.
• Best Based on Nonfiction: "Orange Is the New Black," book of the same title, an arrangement featuring oranges dressed with dark chocolate ganache, by Cyndie Russano of Ridge Manor.
• Best Based on Children's or Teen Book: "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish," Dr. Seuss book of same title, four fish cut-out sugar cookies frosted and sprinkled appropriately, by Emma Mulligan of Spring Hill.
Winners received gift certificates for the Little Red Schoolhouse, the library system's used bookstore.