The other day I was out for lunch with a friend right down the street from my most favorite bookstore, The Curious Reader. We stopped in on the way to our car and as often happens, I discovered a new treasure.
As we were chatting, Sally walked over to the new picture book shelf and handed me A Fine Dessert, written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. When Sally presents a new book like this, I know it means we need to add it to our library.
A Fine Dessert’s subtitle is a perfect summary; ‘four centuries, four families, one delicious treat.’
The book begins with a mother and daughter in Lyme, England in 1710. We read along as the duo pick blackberries and then turn them in to a delicious dessert. The same scene is replayed with different adults and different children over three more centuries. With each new pairing, we see a glimpses of changes in societal norms and cooking processes. This book is a story but also a history that just begs for conversation.
The girls and I read this book on a night when we did not have a ton of time for read aloud. We finished reading and it was clear that the girls had so many questions that they were not going to sleep until we had talked a bit. There were big questions about slavery and women’s roles and small questions about refrigeration and methods for making whipped cream. I read both the author and illustrator notes at the end of the book which were extensive and we still talked more.
This book is quiet and probably will not catch the eye of a child walking by but it is a keeper. Any book that teaches a lot of history in a small space and brings two siblings together in conversation is worth a space on our shelves for sure.
Books like A Fine Dessert, ones I wouldn’t be drawn to on my own, remind me of the power of independent book stores. As much as I appreciate the ease of Amazon and the free-ness of the library nothing can beat a bookseller who knows you. Sally knows our family and she knew we would like A Fine Dessert so she put it into my hands and it will now hold a favorite place on our shelves.