An illustrated memoir of four generations of women at the kitchen table by semiretired middle school English teacher Kenney.
Kenney traces her family history, with a red-handled rolling pin symbolizing continuity. First introducing the memoir through her own childhood story of a china demitasse set (illustrated here in full color), Kenney shows that her own mother appreciated finer things and possessed the resources to do so. In contrast, her grandmother Mary Rose O’Brien Crowley—for whom the author was named, though they never met—worked from home as a baker after her husband’s industrial death at a young age. From her grandmother, Kenney inherited a love for baking. In turn, Kenney used the same red-handled rolling pin as a mother teaching her own children to bake. Of the four generations of women, the most affecting story is that of Mary Rose, raising her only daughter, Margaret, as a single parent with a cottage industry the sole source of financial support. With his habit of consuming a daily baked onion to ward off illness, Mary Rose’s unnamed father was a tangible tie to the old country. Interestingly, the only men featured or even mentioned in the memoir are Mary Rose’s father and dead husband. Notably, although Kenney does not specifically mention it, all three adult generations of women worked, at times when women frequently did not financially contribute to the family. In fact, the juxtaposition of two typically female symbols—rolling pin and kitchen table—with financially independent women helps this memoir-based children’s book stand out. Sometimes, though, the descriptions are unnecessarily confusing; for example, “Her mother, my grandmother, was Mary Rose O’Brien and then Crowley. Then means later when girls get married.” In addition, the introductory story—based on Kenney’s only memory of using her mother’s demitasse set—doesn’t necessarily tie into the theme represented by the titular rolling pin.
Intriguing generational narrative for young readers with an interest in history, particularly women’s history.