Review: A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins

a fine dessert

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Released January 27, 2015.

Follow one recipe through the centuries in this exceptional picture book!  Starting over 300 years ago in England, the book starts with a mother and daughter out picking blackberries.  Once home, the mother skims cream from the milk from their cow and whips it with a bundle of twigs for 15 minutes until she has whipped cream.  That is combined with squashed and strained blackberries mixed with sugar to create blackberry fool.  The fool then needs to be cooled, so they head to the hillside to chill it with sheets of winter ice that they store there.  Then the family enjoys it and the little girl licks the bowl clean.  As readers turn to the next family in Charleston, South Carolina about 200 years ago, they will notice so many changes just not in the recipe itself.  The method of refrigeration changes, the method of whisking the cream and the time it takes, the way they get the ingredients, and the family setting.  Next comes even more changes as the setting turns to a century ago in Boston and then the final family, a modern San Diego father and son.  Each family brings updates to the methods but enjoys the delicious dessert exactly the same way, with gusto!

Jenkins has an author’s note at the end of the book that further explains and points out the changes from one century to the next in the way food is procured and prepared.  Even the use of actual recipes only appears in the final family.  Written in a jolly way, this picture book uses repetition and patterns to make sure that children will see the differences in the way the food is prepared as the time passes.  It is a fascinating look at how food preparation has progressed but also in how very much has stayed the same.

Blackall’s illustrations are playful and clever.  She too uses repetition in her illustrations, showing the joy of licking the whisk or spatula and the final head dive into the bowl after the meal is complete.  There is a simplicity to her art as well, allowing the settings she conveys on the page to speak clearly.  One knows even without the words that you are in a different time and place thanks just to the illustrations.

A joy to read and share, this book has all the delight of a great dessert but is also packed full of historical information and detail.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.