A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat (©2015) is a picture book written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall.

This charming book follows four different families, each a century apart, as they prepare blackberry fool, a simple dessert made from crushed blackberries, sugar, and whipped cream. The story focuses closely on how each family prepares the treat, from gathering ingredients all the way to presenting the finished dessert.

A Fine Dessert (2)In England in the year 1710, a girl and her mother pick wild blackberries and milk a cow for fresh cream. They serve the finished dessert to the girl’s father and brothers. In 1810 South Carolina, a slave girl and her mother pick blackberries from the plantation garden. After supper they serve the dessert to their master and his family. In 1910 Boston, a girl and her mother buy blackberries at a farmer’s market. When they finish they sit down and enjoy the dessert with the rest of the family. In 2010 San Diego, a boy and his father buy blackberries and cream from a supermarket. They eat the dessert in the company of a large gathering of friends.

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Each vignette follows a pattern, allowing children to easily spot the many similarities and differences between time periods. One of the cleverer ways this is achieved is by highlighting the tool used to beat the whipped cream. A bundle of twigs, a metal whisk, cast-iron rotary beaters, and finally, an electric mixer.

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book. The author and illustrator give great attention to historical accuracy. A Fine Dessert proves that history lessons don’t have to come from textbooks. The gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations are full of soft colors and intricate details. The author doesn’t shy away from difficult issues, but doesn’t dwell on them either, and the overall tone of the book is a positive one. The author and illustrator’s notes at the end of the book are fascinating, and give plenty of insight into how this book came to be.

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The also book includes a recipe for blackberry fool so that families can create their own version of this fine dessert. I recommend A Fine Dessert for ages 5 and up.

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