Availability: Not on our shelves now, usually available for pick-up or shipping in 1-10 days
Published: Candlewick - June 8th, 2010
customary proverbs and tales used to instruct children about the nature
of work seem to have been formalized in harsh times. There are the
admonitions about "haste making waste" and "never putting all your eggs
in one basket." There is the fate of the grasshopper vs. the survival of
the diligent ant. And, perhaps most familiar, the parable of the
industrious Little Red Hen, who after sowing, growing, reaping and
baking that wheat all by herself keeps every crumb of the bread.
There's certainly important information here about the ways of the
world, but an unleavened diet of such stories would seem to produce
children with the souls of mortgage bankers.
So what kind of story might produce the soul of a social worker? Or at
least the soul of child who plays well with others? One of our favorites
It's My Birthday, a gentle upending of the
Little Red Hen tale in which a child and lots of animal friends work
together to bake the protagonist's birthday cake.
The perfect birthday present for 2- or 3-year-olds (but a pleasure for
ages 8 months to 88), this book works through the gathering of cake
ingredients much the way the Hen story works through the wheat-growing
cycle. A tow-headed child in overalls (she or he is conveniently
ambiguous--both genders love to bake) announces the importance of this
day and its mission: cake!
The chicken, the bear, the cat, the pig, the dog and the monkey
volunteer in turn to get the ingredients the child needs. In Helen
Oxenbury's glorious watercolors, this leads to remarkable scenes of
borrowing and buying and selecting. These illustrations answer such
questions as what it looks like when a cat uses a refrigerator (that's a
tremendous stretch to reach the top shelf) and from whom a pig requests
salt (beavers, at a picnic). The cherries for the top of the cake are,
of course, obtained by the monkey. Everyone helps mix the cake, with
the animals wearing expressions so often seen on toddlers who so eagerly
help in the kitchen and who are so impressed by the alchemy that occurs
For a brief, utterly dismaying moment, the animal friends wonder if the
child might act like the Little Red Hen grasping her loaf (or like the
overly entitled Birthday Girl or Boy who demands to be the center of all
the day's attention.) Not to worry. Everyone enjoys thick slices of
cake and cups of juice and the bonhomie of friends who have cooperated
on a triumphant project.