The true history of Amelia Simmons, the author of America’s first cookbook, has been lost. Enter this whimsical, fictionalized account of what could’ve been, delectable cakes included!
After Amelia’s parents die in the first two sentences, the mob-capped white girl is taken in by Mrs. Bean to help with chores and watch her six rambunctious sons, all also white. Amelia cleans clothes, scrubs pots, picks apples, and that’s only half of it! What she doesn’t already know how to do, she learns. Mrs. Bean is ever so grateful. “You’ve brightened our lives like a star on the flag.” In addition to her chores, Amelia wants “to learn good, plain American cookery and [to] share recipes with my fellow citizens.” Soon, Amelia is inventing delicious new recipes using American ingredients and becomes the talk of the town, eventually baking the titular (enormous!) cake in honor of the newly elected president, George Washington. The tale presents a distinctly rosy vision of life as an orphaned “bound girl” in late-18th-century America. Too good to be true? Perhaps. But Hopkinson’s lively text—rife with allegorical Americana—and Potter’s charming watercolor-and-ink illustrations team up to tell an entertaining story. Readers will delight in spotting every single rosy-cheeked Bean boy on the page, all up to no good!
One part fiction, one part history lesson, this likable story is an amusing introduction to one slice of early American life. (author’s note, recipe) (Picture book. 4-8)