Blueberry Cake by Sarah Dillard

Blueberry Cake by Sarah Dillard. Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, 2021. 9781534451346

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This adorable book about a bear cub with a one-track mind is told almost entirely with pictures. Baby Bear wants blueberry cake so Mom sends him out to pick a bucketful. He’s excited but soon distracted and comes home with a bucket of flowers instead. “Blueberry cake?” he asks as he returns. “”Blueberries?” Mom pointedly replies, hands on hips. Early the next morning, Baby is up with the sun and picks a big bucket of berries to leave on the counter. He’s rewarded with a delicious blueberry cake. The dialogue between the two animals (who live in a cozy Cape, right up against the Maine shore) is told in talk bubbles and consists of just a handful of words. This book was a lot of fun to read (who can’t identify with Baby Bear’s exuberance?) and I also liked the soft selling of the underlying theme: that if you want something, you’re going to have to participate in its making.

Sharp-eyed readers will enjoy finding the many visual and literary allusions to Robert McCloskey’s 1948 classic, Blueberries for Sal, even spying Sal and her mom through Mama Bear’s kitchen window. The illustrations couldn’t be more different, which could make for an interesting pairing. Whereas McCloskey is all clean line and inky blue, Dillard uses digital illustrations that resemble watercolor to make a brightly colored and pillowy surrounding for the Bear family.  Adding to the graphic novel-feel created by the talk bubbles, the illustrations often take the shape of vertical vignettes, the better able to show time passing as Bear’s adventure marches on.  I loved the intricate detail of the berry field, faithfully rendered as a lush emerald carpet of leaves, with fruit in a rainbow of violet hues. Back matter includes reminiscences from the author about childhood summers in Blue Hill, Maine and, of course, a recipe for blueberry cake.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  With its simple language and warm slyness, this would be a great selection for a read aloud, especially paired with Blueberries for Sal. As Sal may feel a bit long to young listeners, the brevity of this story could serve as a little dessert afterwards. Both books could be great activators for a discussion or lesson on point of view.

Who should buy this book? Preschools, 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 (and right now as it’s Maine blueberry season!)

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

Date of review: August 12, 2021

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