Today is Family Literacy Day, a national event that annually celebrates the importance of families engaging in literacy activities together, sharpening skills and building relationships. Literacy activities including reading picture books together—and baking from recipes! Which leads to even deepening relationships as families eat cake together. Picture book cakes, no less!
Of course CanLit's all-time favourite cakes would include the one from Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman (nom nom), or the cake that Rilla, in abject humiliation, had to carry across town in Rilla of Ingleside.
But in the spirit of Family Literacy, we're sticking to our favourite cakes from picture books. With links to recipes, even. Enjoy!
Sleeping Dragons All Around, by Sheree Fitch and Michele Nidenoff
About the book: Sheree Fitch has read this book to audiences from sea to sea to sea in Canada, in the Himalayas, and along the eastern coast of Africa. Her first two books, Toes in My Nose and Sleeping Dragons All Around, launched her career as a poet, rhymster, and a "kind of Canadian female Dr. Seuss." Fitch has won almost every major award for Canadian children's literature since then, including the 2000 Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work Inspirational to Canadian Children. She has over twenty-five books to her credit. Her adult novel, Kiss The Joy As It Flies (2008), was met with critical praise and became a Canadian bestseller within eight weeks. Fitch's home base is the east coast of Canada. She dances with dragons daily.
Make the cake: In this suspense-filled narrative (WILL OR WON'T THE DRAGONS WAKE UP????), the protagonist is trying to creep downstairs for a slice of delicious-sounding mocha maple chocolate cake. Sounds good, doesn't it?
My Heart Fills With Happiness, by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett
About the book: The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.
International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote My Heart Fills with Happiness to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families, and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.
Make the cake: Oh, the smell of bannock baking in the oven. Experience the happiness yourself!
Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad
About the book: A charming, whimsically illustrated picture book about joie de vivre, told from the perspective of a child named Julia who loves to cook. Sure to be savored by readers of all ages.
Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter—and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the very real Julia Child—a story that should be taken with a grain of salt and a generous pat of butter.
Make the cake: Cupcakes save the day in this story, teaching the grown-ups to get over their feelings of "never-enoughness" and helping them be "a little less beastly and a little more generous." The petits gateaux in question are chocolate almond cupcakes with chocolate butter icing.
The Party, by Barbara Reid
About the book: In this timeless story, Barbara Reid explores the simple fun and wonderful family togetherness that is inspired by a lively backyard party.
Through the eyes of the children in attendance, she muses on the glorious childhood pleasures of running around freely, as parents are preoccupied with conversation and food. In gorgeous colour and Plasticine detail, she invites us all to enjoy the games, the cake, the conversation and to endure kisses from Aunt Joan! Truly a perfect rendering of a chaotic but loving family event.
Originally published in 1997, this Governor General's Award-winning classic has won the admiration of all who have read it.
Make the cake: The Party's menu is to-die-for, a nostalgic's dream, and I'd love to one day recreate it: "there's sausage rolls, casseroles, pineapple rings. Devilled eggs, chicken legs, little cheese things. Salads with jelly, salads with beans. Enough? Let the dog lick your party plate clean. Leave room for dessert at the party." Dessert being a massive birthday cake lit with 90 candles for Gran's birthday.
Pinny in Summer, by Joanne Schwartz and Isabelle Malenfant
About the book: This engaging story, told in chapter-like episodes, follows Pinny on a long, lazy summer day. As sunshine turns to rain and back to sun again, Pinny searches for a wishing rock, watches clouds, picks wild blueberries, feeds a seagull, and bakes a cake to share with her friends.
An ideal book for children beginning to make the jump to independent reading, Pinny in Summer demonstrates the joy young people find in nature and an unstructured life. Pinny is allowed to explore her world freely, and her small setbacks and triumphs will be familiar to every child.
With charming illustrations by Isabelle Malenfant and a spare, poetic text from author Joanne Schwartz, Pinny in Summer is a bright and inviting picture book that captures all the delight of a perfect summer day.
Make the cake: Thanks to a misbehaving seagull, Pinny's blueberry cake (make with freshly picked berries!) meets an unfortunate end, but we hope you have better luck.
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