cover image A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

Emily Jenkins, illus. by Sophie Blackall. Random/Schwarz & Wade, $17.99 (44p) ISBN 978-0-375-86832-0

In this inventive culinary history, Jenkins (Water in the Park) traces a single dessert through the centuries as four families—from 1710, 1810, 1910, and 2010, respectively—puree blackberries and whip heavy cream to enjoy blackberry fool after dinner. “What a fine dessert!” each cook exclaims. Blackall’s (The Baby Tree) scrupulously researched ink, watercolor, and blackberry juice (!) spreads document the dress, furnishings, and cooking methods of each family, and they repay close study and comparison; watching cream-whipping technology evolve is particularly enlightening. Unfortunately, an attempt at historical authenticity backfires as the 19th-century plantation family’s blackberry fool is made for them by their slaves. The African-American cook and her daughter are not permitted to eat the dessert they’ve made; instead, they serve it to the white family, and the two are left to lick the bowl in a dark closet. The historical facts are not in dispute, but the disturbing injustices represented in this section of an otherwise upbeat account either require adult readers to present necessary background and context or—worse—to pass by them unquestioned. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Nancy Gallt, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Jan.)