Review: Gingerbread for Liberty by Mara Rockliff

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

German-born Christopher Ludwick had come to the Colonies as a young man looking for the opportunity to create his own bakery.  He did just that, creating gorgeous gingerbread for his town.  When the Revolutionary War began, he was eager to defend his America in any way he could, so he headed off to join General George Washington.  When he got there, the soldiers were hungry and complaining about the quality of food they were getting.  Ludwick jumped into action, feeing the armies bread from his ovens.  But the dangers weren’t done yet.  The King of England pulled together armies from other countries and sent them into battle.  The soldiers came from Germany and Ludwick offered to see if he could convince them not to fight.  Once again it was food and the promise of having enough to eat that convinced the soldiers to lay down their arms.  Many battles later, the war was won, but Ludwick and General Washington had one final mammoth baking task ahead of them.

Rockliff keeps the tone of this book quite lighthearted even as Ludwick finds himself taking grave risks with his life.  The writing is jolly and merry throughout.  The tone suits this baker whose optimism shines on the page and whose patriotism seemed to know no limits.  His accomplishments exceed what is shown in this picture book.  Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about this amazing patriot and what he did for children and education as well as liberty.

Kirsch’s illustrations are a gingery delight.  Done in the forms of elaborate gingerbread cookies, the characters are shown as flat brown cookies with plenty of icing.  From the brown outlines to the white lines of icing, there is no mistaking what they are meant to be.  They too add a sweet and optimistic feel to this jolly picture book.

An unsung hero of the Revolutionary War and beyond, this picture book celebrates the impact that one man can have in making history.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons

tea cakes for tosh

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Tosh loved spending time with his grandma Honey, who baked him tea cakes.  She told him stories of the cakes, dating all the way back to his great-great-great-great-grandma Ida who made the best tea cakes around.  But those tea cakes were not for her children, they were for her owners since she was a slave.  Sometimes though, she would make some extra cakes for her children to promise that things would change.  Honey started to forget things, like where she parked her car and phone numbers.  Then one day, she forgot how to make tea cakes.  Luckily, Tosh knew just how to help.

Lyons has created a relationship between grandmother and grandchild here that is warm and loving and filled with sweet baked good too.  She shows the importance of generation in a family by tying in the history of the tea cakes.  I appreciate seeing a boy’s relationship with his grandmother where the boy is also interested in his heritage and being in the kitchen. 

Lewis has illustrated the book with realistic watercolors that capture the relationship of the two main characters.  He switches to black and white images when family history is discussed and shows the tea cakes on recipe cards too.  The entire book is filled with warm colors that speak to the sunny relationship being depicted.

A beauty of a book, this picture book celebrates family heritage, grandparents and the power of food to bring people closer together.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

my mixed-up berry blue summer

My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

June has lived on Lake Champlain with her mother forever.  They run the marina with its supplies and café.  That’s where June learned to make pies, and she is determined to enter the fair this summer to prove what a great baker she is.  But this summer is going to be very different from other summers.  First, her mother’s girlfriend has moved in with them.  Then there is the pressure from Vermont’s new civil union law that has their small town divided.  There are people who won’t shop at the marina anymore because June’s mother is gay.  It is a summer unlike any other, one where June will have to figure out how she feels about having two mothers, and then whether she has the courage to speak up. 

Gennari’s debut novel courageously takes on not only the issue of gay parents but also the political backlash that can occur to a family in modern America.  Through the eyes of June, we see a strong mother and daughter connection, an understanding that her mother is gay, but then the realization that that will be much more public with a girlfriend or spouse.  Gennari makes this a very human story that embraces the power of community and the complexities as well.  As a special aside, I will mention the great librarian character who shows a lot of support for June and her family.

This book is short and active.  It’s a perfect summer read with plenty of dips in the lake, boats on the water, bike rides in the heat, and ripening berries all around.  Nicely, it is about more relationships than the mother and her girlfriend.  June is faced with losing a friend because of their difference in opinion and then June’s changing feelings toward Luke, a boy who is her best friend. 

Perfect for a summer read while floating on a lake, this book is strong, courageous and radiant.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Pie by Sarah Weeks


Pie by Sarah Weeks

When Alice’s Aunt Polly dies, the entire community of Ipswitch feels the loss.  Polly, the Pie Queen, left behind quite a void, one that had been filled by her pie shop and her incredible gift for baking pies.  Every resident had a favorite and with her death, they knew they would never taste them again.  But for Alice it is much worse, she has lost one of her dearest friends as well as the shop where she spent much of her time.  Her Aunt Polly left the recipe for her award-winning pie crust to Lardo, her ornery cat, and she left Lardo to Alice.  No one is really sure how someone can leave a recipe to a cat.  As the days pass, strange things start happening, but only Alice seems to notice.  She knows there is someone out there trying to get their hands on the recipe.  With her new friend, Charlie, Alice is determined to solve the mystery.

Weeks has written a book as light as meringue but that has plenty of depth as well.  The story is great fun to read.  It has the tang of a mystery combined with the sweetness of pie.   The pie recipes shared at the beginning of each chapter will have you drooling and determined to see if you could maybe be the next Blueberry Award winner.

Notice how that rhymes with Newbery Award winner?  Weeks has a lot of fun with her brief description of how the Blueberry Award is announced.  It closely resembles the Newbery Award process and had me giggling.  It’s a great insider joke to have in a children’s book.

Alice is a strong character, struggling with the loss of her aunt.  She is determined, creative and imaginative, singing little songs to herself all the time.   These are the things her aunt supported in her, but that her own mother doesn’t understand.  The family dynamic is an important piece of the entire book and is written with great honesty.

A delicious, fun read, this book of pie and mystery is a treat whether read with alamode or alone.  It’s an ideal book for classroom sharing as well, after all who doesn’t like pie?  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

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