A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
Written by Emily Jenkins; Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015, Ages 4-8
Fiction, with a little bit of history tied within, this story is about four different families from different centuries that make the same tasty dessert: Blackberry Fool. The first family was from the 18th century and they lived in an English town. To get the ingredients to make the recipe, they picked berries from the bushes and milked the cow to turn the milk into cream. To keep it cold until dinner, they stored it by sheets of ice in a hillside, since they did not have a refrigerator. The second family was from the 19th century and they lived on a plantation farm in the south. They also picked the berries from the bushes, but they got their cream from a dairy. They stuck the dessert down in the basement to keep it cold. The third family was from the 20th century and they lived in Boston. They got their fresh berries from a market and cream from their everyday delivery. To keep it cold, they put it in a wooden icebox until dinner. The last family was from the 21st century and they lived in San Diego. They purchased their blackberries and cream from the supermarket. To keep it cold for the party, they stuck it in the refrigerator.
The author’s writing style is repetitive because she keeps telling how each family obtains their ingredients, how they make the dessert, and where they put the final product for it to stay cold until dinner. For example, “They carried the mixture to an ice pit in the hillside. It chilled near sheets of winter ice, packed with reeds and straw. They carried the blackberry fool to a wooden icebox stocked with blocks of ice they had delivered each day.” Emily Jenkins’ writing style is simple, but very thorough in explaining how each century is different. As time progresses, new technology is invented, so different tools are used to make the recipe.
The illustrator used different colored pencils to represent the images for this book. Before she even began creating the pictures, she did extensive research on what each image should look like since it was coming from a different time period. The most effective illustration that develops the story as a whole is the girl and her mother picking the berries in the 19th century. It shows that they are a different race, but it makes the story more unique because it brings up the different cultures. To make the story more whole, the illustrator was able to capture a family from the 19th century and how they prepped and made the dessert.
I loved the book. I think the book met its goal on trying to capture a recipe made from four different time frames and their families. Parents and children will both enjoy this book too because not only is it about dessert, but it also teaches a lesson on what one has to do when getting ready to make something. I liked how the author included each step on how each family made it. The event of making the delicious dessert is most certainly something children will understand and probably even want to make since the recipe is included in the back of the book. I liked how both the author and illustrator were able to capture each century and how things changed, either dealing with technology or where the ingredients came from. For example, “When they got home, the man printed out a recipe from the Internet. The boy beat the cream with an electric mixer.” This quote explains how during the 21st century, in order to get the recipe, it needed to be printed off of the internet. As well as showing how the boy used an electric mixer, possibly showing the difference in centuries and how electricity is more involved and common around households.
Reviewed by Beth Helms