Crab Cake – written and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

 Crab Cake – written and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544959002, 2019 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  An easy-to-swallow message book is a rare find but Andrea Tsurumi succeeds here. She alternates between solid information on one page (“Clownfish hides in the stinging anemone”, “Seahorse pretends to be seaweed” and “The venomous Lionfish does whatever she pleases”) with zany baking scenes (“And Crab bakes cakes”.  Crab’s cakes could never actually be produced underwater; they’re iced layer cakes, decorated cupcakes and nut-filled confections but kids will be in on the joke. Just when you think the book is going to be all fun and games, someone dumps a load of trash into the sea and the animals despair. But, Crab’s cakes cheer them up and give them purpose as they pick up all the garbage and pile it back on the dock, along with a painted admonishment to “Come Get Your Junk!” A great message about the value of cooking and how it can create community.

Tsumari’s illustrations are well-matched to the slightly askew and satirical story. The animals look enough like their real life counterparts to make identification easy, but cartoonish enough to sell the absurdity of a cake-baking crab. The shift from the bright, colorful ocean to the dark, polluted ones makes the animals’ discomfort obvious. I especially loved the two-page spread of a fish, a shrimp and sea turtle staring at the dark garbage, their white eyes peeled back in horror and their mouths agape.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Kids interested in ocean life. A good message book for group action. The detailed drawings would work best one-on-one or in small groups.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 16, 2020

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