Reviewed by Amy Rothschild, Early Childhood Educator and Teaching for Change volunteer
Book Author: Kelly Starling Lyons
An invaluable new resource/picture book: Tea Cakes for Tosh written by Kelly Starling Lyons, author of Ellen’s Broom, and illustrated by the masterful E.B. Lewis.
Tosh, a young African-American boy, learns from his grandmother Honey how to make teacakes, a family recipe passed down from his great-great-great-great-grandmother Ida. “Long ago, before you and I were born,” Honey begins, “our people were enslaved.” She explains that even though Ida baked these cookies, she could not feed them to her own children. “Some days, Grandma Ida made a few extra, just the right size for hiding in her pocket. She risked being whipped to give the children a sweet taste of freedom.” This is the only mention of violence in the text, which is beautifully paced so that young children can ask questions at this point and an adult can answer.
Lyons weaves in a story about aging and the importance of memory—Grandma Honey starts forgetting even the things she knows by heart, like the recipe. Tosh talks with his mom and realizes that he knows the recipe from all the times he’s baked with Honey. When he shares the cookies with Grandma Honey, it’s his turn to tell the story. By the end, Honey joins in the telling, “their words flying free.”
Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons
Published by Penguin on 2012
Genres: African American, Family, Food, Multigenerational, Slavery
Reading Level: Grade K
Review Source: Teaching for Change
Buy at Powell's Books
SYNOPSIS: A young boy helps his beloved grandmother remember an important family story
Tosh loves listening to Grandma Honey tell family stories. His favorite is about the special tea cakes that smell like vanilla and sunshine. They were great-great-great-great-grandma Ida's specialty when she was a cook in the big house of a plantation. Unlike Tosh, the slave children weren't allowed to have any of the treats, though Grandma Ida always found a way to put the sugary sweetness into their hands anyway. It was a promise and taste of freedom to come.
Tosh knows this is an important story and he takes care to remember every word. And when grandma Honey begins to forget, he can return the gift of tea cakes and stories. A touching family tale, Tea Cakes for Tosh celebrates the important bond between grandchild and grandparent and the stories that make a family strong.