Shannon and Paschkis provide a charming multicultural answer to the title question, creating in the process a confection that, while it may be most appreciated by socially conscious adults, will tempt young appetites as well.
The brief text is composed of rhyming couplets that appear as two phrases on facing pages or as several short sentences across multiple pages or double-page spreads. The actions described may be quite different, but many of the simple sentences start the same way, keeping the focus squarely on the workers and their contributions: “Hands that make the cookie sheet”; “Hands that feed and milk the cow.” While some of the locations may seem exotic, the mother and child busy baking in their cozy kitchen will be familiar to many young readers. Paschkis’ folk-art–inspired gouache illustrations suit the simple language and the sentiment conveyed perfectly. Brightly colored, graphically appealing cookies on the cover invite readers to sample the story within, while the repeating motifs of sunshine, flowers, birds and butterflies that decorate the cookie jar appear again dancing in the blue sky and decorating the fertile land. Shannon ends with a recipe for sugar cookies, just in case readers are inspired to bake a few themselves.
Purposive but pleasing, this gentle lesson in diversity, diligence and the dignity of hard work offers an appealing balance of art and information. (Picture book. 5-9)