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A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
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A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,134 Ratings  ·  465 Reviews
New York Times Best Illustrated Book

From highly acclaimed author Jenkins and Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator Blackall comes a fascinating picture book in which four families, in four different cities, over four centuries, make the same delicious dessert: blackberry fool. This richly detailed book ingeniously shows how food, technology, and even families have changed
Hardcover, 44 pages
Published January 27th 2015 by Schwartz & Wade
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I went and tracked down this book because all the award talk and crazy twitter rants going on about this book.


I just sighed and said before I go on Twitter warfare let me read the book.


After reading it, I definitely went DARNIT! I'm going to be a buzzkill. I read the blog post of the illustrator, the comments, posts, and reviews of the pros and cons---and decided, I will happily be a buzzkill.

I've talked to co-workers about the book itself and their opinion---you could easily gloss over it an
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kids; Parents
Recommended to Carmen by: New York Times Book Review
I looked at this book and thought, "Oh, this is going to be boring."

Big mistake. Actually, this was an amazing book.

It's about four different families in four different centuries making blackberry fool.

FIRST, we have a white family in 1710 England. A mother, a little girl, and a baby, picking blackberries for blackberry fool.

SECOND, we have a black mother and daughter in 1810 Charleston, picking blackberries for blackberry fool on their master's plantation.

THIRD, we have a white mother, little g
If it had not been for the specific and at times rather virulent controversies surrounding this book (especially with regard to the illustrations accompanying the plantation scene), I would probably not have read Emily Jenkins' and Sophie Blackall's (author and illustrator respectively) A Fine Dessert all that critically. However, the controversy mentioned above has made me approach it with a much more analytical mindset than I probably would with most picture books and as a result, I have found ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a wonderful book about food through history...specifically blackberry fool.
It's just blackberries, sugar, and whipped cream.
How can there be a whole book about it?

Well, the book isn't quite about the dessert. I mean, it is, of course, but it's also about how this particular treat has endured through time (from 1710 to 2010) and across two countries (England and the U.S.) and about how, traditionally, this was a mother/daughter undertaking (though, now, fathers and sons can make it, too), and the importance of savoring the sweetness of something you worked to make, the
What a cool way to talk about history with kids. The same dessert is prepared four times, in four different centuries, in four different places. Roughly the same process is used, but other aspects change.

Many of the differences are subtle. In the first, a mother and daughter prepare it and serve it to the males in the family before they eat themselves. At the end, the parent/child combination print a recipe off the internet (it's 2010, not 2015 - now, I think we'd just prop up a tablet or phone
Nov 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
When I first read this book, I knew the depiction of slavery was not ok. Since then, I've read many responses to it, from African Americans, that get at what is wrong with it. In particular is one comment from an African American mom who said that when she looks at the page, she thinks of what that mom is doing... getting her daughter ready for a life of slavery. Most of the people who like the book are liking it without the stories of ancestors and what they went through...

A Fine Dessert is no
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
One recipe is made during four different centuries and though the recipe stays the same the times do not. Clever way to teach history, that.

The illustrations are gorgeous.
Delicious even.
I've thought and thought about this book, especially what rating to give it. I've taken the easy way out by not rating the book. As most who read children's literature professionally know by now, A Fine Dessert has received critical praise; it's one of the New York Times best picture books for 2015.

However, the title has also received a great deal of criticism, mostly academic and grassroots, for the depiction of a slave mother and daughter in the historical look at cooking and family over the
Feb 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Four different time periods, four different parents making blackberry fool with their children. I appreciate the attention to detail and accuracy. Also, now I want to try this, although I wouldn't normally consider myself a big blackberry fan.

Addendum: (30 September, 2015) White privilege means not having to think about whether or not I approve of the decision to depict smiling slaves. I'll ponder what Elisa wrote

Library copy
Nov 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book is a perfect example of "Diversity" gone wrong. Social history? Fresh fruit? Whipped cream? Sugar? Vanilla? Lovely illustrations? What's not to like? The fact that the author, probably in an attempt to combat racism, has inadvertently allowed very subtle racism to creep into the story, so subtle that it may escape the notice of many. My objections may differ slightly from those of leading critics, but I agree with the friend who rated it less than okay.

Does it not strike people as odd
David Schaafsma
The whole family will read all these Goodreads Children's Illustrated book nominees for 2015 and rate all of them.

This is a great book about eating blackberry fool in four different centuries: 1710, 1810, 1910, and 2010. It is simply told and reflects deep research on food and kitchens and clothes and customs across history. The artwork is elegant and the different ways whipped cream has been made over the ages, that's just interesting, and was interesting to the whole family. The endpapers are
Mary Ann
On the surface, this is a warm and sweet book about how parents and children have made blackberry fool together throughout the ages. Probe a little deeper, and it's a book that can lead to many conversations with children. Some families will want to talk about who is making the food and serving it--the role of women and slaves. Others will notice the way preparing and storing food has changed. There has been much debate about the depiction of the 19th century slave family this book (see this NY ...more
Jenkins traces social and technological changes across four centuries and demonstrates these through the preparation of a simple dessert. This delightfully illustrated picture book begins in England in 1710, with a mother and daughter milking a cow to produce their own cream, utilizing a handmade straw whisk to whip it, and picking berries to make a Blackberry Fool, a recipe that we see replicated next in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1810, there are stark differences. Foremost, readers are int ...more
This deliciously descriptive picture book relates how four different families over the cross of four centuries prepare a yummy blackberry fool. The book begins in 1710 in Lyme, England, and ends in 2010 in San Diego, California. Following each step of preparing the dessert over four different centuries allows readers to note the differences in the way food was prepared as well as considering gender roles, slavery, and even the meals that were typically served to families in those years. I loved ...more
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
Follow one recipe through the centuries in this exceptional picture book! Starting over 300 years ago in England, the book starts with a mother and daughter out picking blackberries. Once home, the mother skims cream from the milk from their cow and whips it with a bundle of twigs for 15 minutes until she has whipped cream. That is combined with squashed and strained blackberries mixed with sugar to create blackberry fool. The fool then needs to be cooled, so they head to the hillside to chill i ...more
Marjorie Ingall
Mar 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-6-10, kids-4-8
This book is freaking awesome. A parent and child make blackberry fool in 1710, 1810, 1910 and 2010. It's so minimal and so much.

The text by Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out, and as E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks) shows you the different lives of the dessert-makers -- how they get the cream, the tools they use to whip it, how long it takes, how they keep the bowl cold. The illustrations from Ivy & Bean/Baby Tree/kickass subway poster artist Sophie Blackall let you ex
Akemi G.
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this. History and cooking, two topics I like, put together with pretty pictures. I believe the description of how people dressed, what their residence looked like, etc. in each era is accurate in the pictures, and it's interesting to see how things around food preparation have changed over the last three hundred years.

I just wonder if the depiction of slaves is offensive to African Americans. It's a historical fact we own, and pretending as if it never happened won't make it so. And p
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love picture books that tell a great food Polacco's Thundercake.

Or a young child's look at chronological changes.

All done so well and lovely in this picture book featuring families making blackberry fool.

The author brings in the ideas of slavery and roles of women through her subtle introduction of characters...I wonder if families will just read this book or also talk about each family dynamic?

Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
I was very impressed with this tale - four families, four centuries, one delicious treat says it all.

The narrative is engaging and just repetitive enough to keep the attention of younger children.

And the illustrations are marvelous, weaving the commonalities and differences of these four families throughout the ages. The details are amazing.

I understand the discomfort with the depiction of a slave family - not sure that it shouldn't have been included, as it is a part of our history that shou
I am editing this review because I failed to address things earlier. I was uncomfortable with the section that depicted two individuals that were enslaved. i was thrilled with the idea of the book and the dessert, but I glossed over that bit part that made me incomfortble because it's all so beautiful otherwise. That was a mistake. I still appreciate the ability of the artist and the way that the author and illustrator showed changes over time, but do not want to ignore the problematic issues of ...more
A delicious picture book that follows a dessert recipe through four centuries focusing on four families in four different times and places. Each family's story reveals much about the culture of each time period.

The storytelling is straightforward with no commentary so the reader is able to come to their own conclusions including those about gender and race. The last double page spread is of a dinner party in a contemporary setting with a diverse group of dinner guests, emphasizing how much has
:( Had to re-evaluate & I think enough has been written about why the portrayal of the slave family in this book should be avoided. I agree.
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history teachers esp of primary and elementary grades
Recommended to Joan by: patron
I became aware of this book due to a patron request/complaint. She wanted to know how it was that her system in the midwest had purchased this and we hadn't??!!! She was pretty upset. I thought about writing the truth to her and settled on thank you for bringing this book to our attention, we will be purchasing it. It turned out I had a review copy of the book so I read it. I CAN see why she was surprised we hadn't purchased it since the last section takes place in San Diego. This is a deceptive ...more
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating to compare the lives of four parent/child combinations as they make the same dessert through the centuries. 1710 mother/daughter in England, 1810 slave mother/daughter in South Carolina, 1910 mother/daughter in Massachusetts, and 2010 son/father in San Diego. Watch as everything changes- clothes, homes, technology, hairstyles. Meticulously researched, I found this book fascinating, especially the backmatter: notes from the author and illustrator, and a recipe.

I already loved the aut
The Reading Countess
My school's librarian told me about the controversery swirling around A Fine Dessert as she checked out a stack of Bluebonnet titles for me to peruse over the weekend. I hadn't heard about the hullabaloo and she quickly flipped to the "offensive" pages to show me. After having pored over the book for much longer than need be, I am uncertain about what to say-except this...A Fine Dessert is expertly written after an exhaustive research process. It was then handed to a highly respected artist who, ...more
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Some of my most treasured items are handwritten recipes from those friends and family members. They are like Valentines, expressions of love and a willingness to share something of value. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat (Schwartz & Wade, January 27, 2015) written by Emily Jenkins with illustrations by Sophie Blackall offers readers an opportunity to follow a recipe from place to place from time to time.

Every aspect of A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Fa
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this because it was one of the 2015 Goodreads Challenge winners--"Picture Book" category. For an adult reading a children's book, this was pretty good. I pictured myself reading this to my daughter when she was little and then making the Blackberry Fool written about in the story. Due to that, I'm sure this would have been one of her favorite books. :)

After finishing the story, I read the author's notes explaining why she'd picked certain families for certain times. What thought went int
Kristine Hansen
What amazes me again and again is the sheer amount of work that goes into illustrating a children's book properly. This one took a year to do, and the amount of research is amazing. I can't help but wonder if all illustrators put this much care into a project. Whether they do or not, this particular artist certainly went the extra mile in bringing this story to life.

I liked the connections aspect of the story - same dessert in so many different places, different cultures even. The historical det
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book goes from 1710 to 1810, 1910, to 2010. It shows how a simple dessert was made in each of those years, and shows the kitchen tools used in each of those times. It shows how the dessert was cooled in each of those years. It tells how long it took to whip the cream, and how the blackberries were mashed and sieved. The illustrator told about research into the clothing, furniture, and kitchen equipment that were used during the various time periods. The 1810 year, shows a slave family makin ...more
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CLCSC South Bay B...: Depiction of slaves in A Fine Dessert 1 29 Oct 29, 2015 01:41PM  
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Emily Jenkins is the author of many books for children, including the recent picture books Tiger and Badger, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay, and Princessland, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Her chapter books include the Toys series, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky; she is co-author of the Upside-down Magic series. Emily Jenkins lives in New York City.
More about Emily Jenkins