|a few weeks ago, i posted about the rice daddies' blogaversary book review contest. i couldn't resist entering and lo and behold, i was one of the winners! the generous folks at kane/miller publishing sent each of us 12 participants one free book from their catalog of asian kids' literature. to say thanks to both the rice daddies and kane/miller, here's my review of... *drumroll please*... the story of cherry the pig.|
btw, since i originally submitted a review of the book panda cake in the rice daddies' contest, it seems only fitting that i now graduate to the more accessible apple cake. mmm...
title: the story of cherry the pig
author: utako yamada
ages: 4 - 6
themes: self esteem / identity, friendship
cherry the pig is a very happy pig. she loves desserts so much that she bakes an enormous sweet every afternoon to eat all by herself (after all, she is a pig!). one day, a family of mice sneak into her kitchen and nibble on her freshly baked apple cake. after overhearing them say that it tastes "incredible!", cherry decides to enter her cake in the great harvest festival bake-off. all is going well until she runs into those mice again, who now proclaim how "incredibly awful!" cherry's cake tastes! embarrassed and disheartened by the misunderstanding, cherry hides under a tree until she's surprisingly awarded the grand prize of the bake-off. curious to understand why the mice didn't like her cake, cherry tastes their bag of left-behind biscuits and realizes that mice prefer "very hard, very salty, very cheesy" instead of light and fluffy, cinnamon sweet goodness. aha! with her newfound fame, cherry goes on to open her very own bakery filled with desserts galore... and some very hard, very salty, very cheesy biscuits too.
i love this book for many reasons. at some point, every child will come across a misunderstanding and feel the same emotions of sadness and embarrassment that cherry felt. this story is a great way to talk through that experience and help kids understand that words can be hurtful, and that sometimes people say things because they may not understand or be familar with something that you are / have. cherry learned that the mice have a different opinion about what tastes good, and she opened herself to trying something new (in this case, their food). i think this book will encourage children to be more open-minded about things that aren't familiar (whether it be food, race, gender or anything!) and reinforce the idea that their words can have an impact on others and should therefore be chosen with some thought.
to complement this great story, utako yamada's illustrations evoke feelings of old-fashioned simplicity and happiness. her palette of only red, yellow, green and brown remind me of many books i read as a child, and the charming animal drawings seem very welcoming to little ones. i look forward to sharing this book with emmy when she's a little older (although she definitely paid attention when i read it for the first time today too!).
and if all that wasn't enough, here's the icing on this cake: kane/miller has provided a free activity sheet to go along with this book! it has some great discussion topics, fun games, a word search, and most importantly, an official apple cake recipe to help you get the most from their book. i can't wait until emmy's old enough to help her mama make an apple cake! (seriously, how can you go wrong when the recipe says to "put everything in a big bowl and mix it up with your hands"?!) for those of you that can't wait, here's the recipe - i think i'll try it soon!
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups light vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 cups diced apples (whichever kind you like - crisp is best though)
1 cup chopped nuts (unless you hate them)
1 cup raisins (or dried cranberries, or dried cherries... or nothing)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then... put everything in a big bowl and mix it up with your hands (no, really!). Bake in an ungreased 9 x 13 pan for an hour, and let it cool (if you can wait) before cutting.
*Cherry doesn't share her recipes, but this one is almost as good as hers!