Friday, March 14, 2014

Max Makes a Cake

Max is just like many other preschoolers I know.  He can do some things on his own successfully, like getting dressed, and singing the Four Questions for Passover in both Hebrew and English.  He can soothe and entertain his younger sister, Trudy, and even feed her a little.  One thing he cannot do on his own, however, is make a cake for his mom all by himself.  But his father is busy getting Trudy ready for a nap and can't help him yet.  Max just wants to get started. 

Michelle Edwards and Charles Santoso have teamed up in these pages to depict a perfectly real little boy.  The text rings with the tone of an exasperated child. "'Hurry,' said Max. 'We have a cake to make.'"  When his father starts back down the stairs after Trudy is asleep, Max calls "'Cake time'" and wakes Trudy again.  As a parent, I've been there many times before, where you get one child to sleep and the other child's exuberance wakes them.  Of course, Max has to wait again and he is rapidly losing patience.

Santoso's illustrations are also replete with Max's energy.  Max dashes from the kitchen to the foot of the stairs.  He taps his foot impatiently, shakes the special box of Passover cake mix.  He just.can't.wait.

Max has a brainstorm.  While they have gotten cake mix, they haven't gotten frosting, and he begins to experiment.  Max stirs together jam and cream cheese to make frosting, and he discovers that it tastes quite good.  It gives him the confidence to try a cake all on his own.

This is a warm, sweet look at family life.  As Daddy cares for Max and Trudy on this particular day, Mama is shown downstairs working in her studio.  There are great details in this story - Max stands on a stool as he mixes frosting, in front of a kitchen island lined with books and family odds and ends.  Their home isn't particularly neat and tidy - this is the house of a family that values their time with each other more than a perfect home.  Even though Max wakes up Trudy, his father doesn't scold him.  He simply goes back upstairs to to take care of her.  Max's father is also very capable of handling the daily routine on his own - a happy thing to see.

The subtext of this story is hurrying.  At the beginning, Max tells his sister that she will have to learn the Four Questions (as the youngest child, it will be her responsibility to recite the Four Questions, but right now she is far too young).  Trudy will also learn the Passover story.  Max explains it to Trudy this way: "'A long time ago, the Jews were slaves in Egypt.  When Pharaoh freed them, they had to hurry,hurry, hurry away with their bread on their backs.  The sun baked it flat like crackers.  That's what matzoh is."  It is Max who is in a big hurry during the story.  In fact, he wishes his dad would hurry up many times during the story (which is opposite what usually happens, where the adult wishes the child would hurry up!).  The Passover story is so nicely integrated into Max's emotions.  He feels that same sense of urgency.  And matzoh, one of the symbols of Passover, finds its way into Max's Hurry, Hurry, Hurry cake.

This is a picture book, but I love that it still has some age-appropriate back matter to help provide context.  There is an easy recipe for the Hurry, Hurry, Hurry cake, a more complete explanation of the Four Questions, and a slightly longer retelling of the Passover story.  All of these help make some of Max's story more understandable to children not previously familiar with Jewish culture.  And the recipe would be fun to make and customize after reading.

I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in the blog tour for this book.  I was also lucky enough to be sent an extra copy of the book for one of you!  The giveaway is below, and it will be open until March 21st.  Enter and win - I can't wait to share it with you!  If you'd like more information on the author, or want to follow along on the blog tour, click here.

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Max Makes a Cake. Michelle Edwards; illustrated by Charles Santoso.  Random House, 2014.

sent by publisher and Provato Events as part of the blog tour

1 comment:

  1. I am not a big fan of cooking BUT I did learn how to make a fish shaped cake for a dessert theater that was as easy as doing two round cake pans and cutting one in half to become the front of the fish and the tail.