Blueberry Cake by Sarah Dillard

Cover image for Blueberry Cake.

Blueberry Cake by Sarah Dillard (9781534451346)

A little bear asks his mother for some blueberry cake one morning. She sends him off with a pail to pick blueberries. He walks through the woods until he reaches the huge patch of wild blueberries. He picks some and eats more. Distracted by a butterfly, he accidentally dumps out the few berries he has left. Almost back home, he stops to fill the pail with flowers from the meadow. But no blueberries, means no blueberry cake. So the next day, he tries again. This time he surprises his mother with a full pail of blueberries and she immediately makes him blueberry cake!

The little bear is a merry youngster, dashing through the woods, cartwheeling, and wearing the pail on his head. His enthusiasm for blueberry cake is contagious and mouthwatering. The text in the book is limited to only a few words with many of the panels in the book wordless. There is something marvelously charming about these domestic bears with their sunny yellow kitchen with polka dot wallpaper and checked curtains. Make sure to stay until the final page when the cake has been cut for a little giggle.

A summery sweet read. Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Aladdin.

Review: Monkey & Cake Books

What Is Inside THIS Box by Drew Daywalt This Is MY Fort by Drew Daywalt

What Is Inside THIS Box? by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (9781338143867)

This Is MY Fort! by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (9781338143904)

These are the first two books in the rather surreal new easy-reader series Monkey & Cake. Monkey and Cake are friends. In the first book, Monkey has a big box that he won’t let Cake open. Inside the box is a cat, but it’s a cat that disappears when the box is opened. This bothers Cake immensely, certain that the cat must be imaginary. But is it? In the second book, Cake builds a fort that he won’t let Monkey enter. Monkey though finds another wild solution to the problem, declaring that the entire world then is Monkey’s fort and turning Cake’s fort into a trap of sorts. Soon it is Cake who is begging to share forts.

With the two premises being unique and fascinating questions about perspective, trust and ownership, this series is great fun but also unusually deep. Even the two characters are a delightful and rather zany mashup where pie is the snack of choice, definitely not cake! The writing is done entirely in dialogue, making the reading snappy and fast paced. There is little extraneous here, as it’s a concise look at big questions. Tallec’s art is bright and friendly. The two main characters are always center stage and interacting with one another, arguing as only friends can.

A wild and interesting new easy reader series. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copies.

Review: Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi

Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi

Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi (9780544959002)

Crab loves to bake cakes. He makes them every day as all of the fish and ocean creatures do what they usually do too. Pufferfish puffs, Parrotfish eats coral, Dolphin blows bubbles. But when one night a disaster happens and a load of trash is dumped on their part of the ocean bed, no one knows what to do. Everyone else freezes, just staring at the mess. Crab though doesn’t freeze and makes a big cake for everyone to share. As the animals come together, they form a plan. It’s all thanks to one crab who just kept on doing what he does best.

Tsurumi’s picture book is filled with lots of small touches that bring this underwater world fully to life. The book reads aloud beautifully with quiet moments at first, the loveliness of crab making cakes for everyone, and then the disaster and its aftermath. It is a picture book that celebrates the creation of a community and the power of food to bring everyone together. It is also a book that looks at our oceans, caring for them and a love of the creatures who live there. The illustrations have a great cartoon look and feel to them that works well, creating moments of humor and drama very effectively.

A winning read for storytimes about fish, crabs or the environment. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Cali

Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Cali

Good Morning, Neighbor by Davide Cali, illustrated by Maria Dek (9781616896997)

One morning, Mouse wakes up and wants an omelet for breakfast. The trouble is, he doesn’t have an egg. So he asks the blackbird for an egg. Blackbird has flour, but no egg perhaps they could make a cake instead! The two set off to find an egg, and along the way, they gather more and more animals and ingredients. The dormouse has butter. Mole has sugar. Hedgehog has apples. Raccoon has cinnamon. Lizard has raisins. And finally, Bat has an egg! Owl lets them bake the cake in her oven. But when the divvying up of the cake comes into question, does Mouse get anything? After all, she didn’t really contribute something. Or did she?

This book is a clever riff on Stone Soup where everyone’s contributions come together to make something much more special. It uses repetition very nicely to give it a distinct folklore flavor. The final question of whether Mouse gets a slice of cake for initiating the idea and the entire process is an interesting one. The end will satisfy everyone except maybe hungry children who will want some apple cake themselves.

The illustrations add to the folklore appeal with their friendly animals and forest setting that is whimsically depicted. Each animal has their own personality and feel thanks to the illustrations and the way they appear on the page.

A great read-aloud choice that would pair well with autumn stories about apples and baking. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (9780316404488)

Little Star and her mother bake a big mooncake together. When her mother palces the cake in the sky to cool, she reminds Little Star not to touch it until she is told to. Little Star agrees. Little Star gets ready for bed and falls right to sleep, but she wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the mooncake. She only takes a tiny nibble and then runs back to bed. Night after night, Little Star eats a little bit more of the mooncake until finally all that was left was a tiny pile of twinkling crumbs. There was only one thing to do… bake another one!

This is a beautiful tribute to the phases of the moon that tells the story in an original and modern way. There are tiny touches of a folklore format here, but nothing that formal. Instead the story embraces the reader, so one can almost taste the cake on your tongue. The text is simple and has a wonderful playfulness to it so that readers are in on Little Star’s midnight snacks along with her.

The illustrations are exceptional, mixing whimsy with realistic figures. Even with the first bite of the Big Mooncake, a trail of starlike crumbs are left behind. Little Star and her mother wear black pajamas covered in large yellow stars that blend into the dark backgrounds of the pages. Even the endpages are wonderful with tributes to the blue of the sky in the day, a clock that monitors the phases of the moon and milk that swirls into a galaxy when spilled.

A remarkable picture book from a gifted author and illustrator. Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Book Review: Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan

betty bunny

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan, illustrated by Stephane Jorisch

Betty Bunny’s parents are always telling her that she’s a handful.  Since she knows they love her very much, she is certain that being a handful is something very, very good.  One day, her mother offers chocolate cake for dessert.  Betty Bunny refuses to try it at first, because it is new, but then gives in.  She realizes that it is very delicious, so delicious that she decides that she will marry chocolate cake.  The next day, she is obsessed with chocolate cake, unable to concentrate at all at school.  Once she got home, she was told she would have to eat a healthy dinner before she could have cake.  When her siblings tease her, Betty gets angry and throws food.  She’s sent to her room where she continues to think only of cake.  The next day, she is told there is a piece of cake just for her waiting in the refrigerator if only she will be patient through the day.  Betty Bunny knows the cake will be lonely all day, so she puts it in her pocket.  At home that evening, she realizes it has become a goopy mess in her pocket.  Her mother tries again, leaving a piece of cake just for her.  What in the world could Betty do next?

I know that this book will have some parents frustrated because it is not a picture book that demonstrates exemplary behavior from the children in the story.  But that is where the appeal of this book is for me.  Betty Bunny reads as a real child with an obsession.  She cries, gets angry, and thinks about it all the time.  But this book is not just about a child obsessed.  It is also the story of a family with older siblings and parents who use humor and clever approaches to deal with a child. 

The writing has wonderful moments built into it.  Betty’s insistence that she will marry chocolate cake because she loves it so much rings very real.  Her brother’s teasing about that over the course of days also reads as true.  It is a picture book that is written by people who have children, love children, and appreciate the humor that comes with them.

Jorisch’s illustrations are done in pencil, ink, watercolor and gouache.  They have a great mix of organic watercolor feel and angular modernism.  There is a bright warmth to them thanks to how colorful they are and a pleasant busyness that depicts the active family.

Highly recommended, this is not a book for parents who want an example for how their children should act.  But it is a great read-aloud filled with chocolate, sweets, temper tantrums and family.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

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