Children whose grown-ups do not address the material in the notes with them will be left with a sorely incomplete...

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A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON

Delia’s papa, Hercules, faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge: how to bake a birthday cake for his master, President George Washington, without sugar?

Food writer Ganeshram applies her considerable expertise to this historical tale of culinary ingenuity. How, exclaims Papa, can the larder be stocked with West Indian nutmeg, Mexican chocolate, African coffee, English cheese, Italian olives, Indian mangoes, and Arabian oils—but no sugar? Fortunately, the president has a taste for honey, and Papa improvises successfully. A full double-page spread is devoted to the preparation and combination of ingredients, presented as a team effort. Every last one of the enslaved kitchen crew is smiling, as they are throughout. Brantley-Newton explains those smiles in the backmatter, noting that the real-life Hercules and his staff evidently took pride in their work for the president: “There is joy in what they've created through their intelligence and culinary talent.” Ganeshram confronts Delia’s and Papa’s bondage on one page, when Delia tells readers proudly that “Papa is the slave President and Mrs. Washington trust the most.” A full-page author’s note goes into detail about Hercules’ life, informing readers that he escaped in 1797, leaving Delia still enslaved. The book is a sorry contrast to Emily Arnold McCully’s The Escape of Oney Judge (2007), which explicitly tells the story of one of Martha Washington’s enslaved servants who took freedom.

Children whose grown-ups do not address the material in the notes with them will be left with a sorely incomplete understanding of both the protagonists' lives and slavery itself.   (recipe) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-53823-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic.

PRESIDENT ADAMS' ALLIGATOR

This tally of presidential pets reads like a school report (for all that the author is a journalist for Fox Business Network) and isn’t helped by its suite of amateurish illustrations.

Barnes frames the story with a teacher talking to her class and closes it with quizzes and a write-on “ballot.” Presidents from Washington to Obama—each paired to mentions of birds, dogs, livestock, wild animals and other White House co-residents—parade past in a rough, usually undated mix of chronological order and topical groupings. The text is laid out in monotonous blocks over thinly colored scenes that pose awkwardly rendered figures against White House floors or green lawns. In evident recognition that the presidents might be hard to tell apart, on some (but not enough) pages they carry identifying banners. The animals aren’t so differentiated; an unnamed goat that William Henry Harrison is pulling along with his cow Sukey in one picture looks a lot like one that belonged to Benjamin Harrison, and in some collective views, it’s hard to tell which animals go with which first family.

The runt of the litter of print titles and websites covering the topic. (bibliography, notes for adult readers) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62157-035-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Patriot Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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