Review of the Week: “A Fine Dessert”

dessertJenkins, Emily. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Dessert. Sophie Blackall, Illus. Non-fiction. Schwartz & Wade/Random, 2015. [44]p. $17.99, 978-0-375-86832-0, PLB $20.99, 978-0-375-96832-7. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 2-5.

From Lyme, England, in 1710, to Charleston, S.C., in 1810, to Boston, Mass., in 1910, and finally to San Diego, Calif., in 2010, this picture-book history shows how food procurement, kitchen equipment, home, and clothing have evolved—but “Blackberry Fool” has always been “a fine dessert.” The narrative establishes a pattern that invites comparison, and the various changes make it interesting. The cream, for example, is beaten first with a bundle of twigs, then a metal whisk, then a cast-iron rotary beater, and finally with an electric mixer. Rendered in Chinese ink, watercolor, and blackberry juice, the art maintains a visual pattern that parallels the narrative, making it easy to follow the changes. Illustrations also portray social changes not mentioned in the text. The Charleston mother and daughter, for example, are clearly slaves. In San Diego, a boy and his father represent a gender shift, and their guests also reflect social changes not mentioned in the narrative. Packed with plenty to discuss, this accessible, delicious bite of history will also appeal to Bay Area “foodies.” Back matter includes recipe, historical notes, and sources.
Linda Perkins, Independent

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