Book: Max Makes a Cake
Author: Michelle Edwards
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Age Range: 3-8
Max Makes a Cake is a new picture book by Michelle Edwards and Charles Santoso. It's a gentle introduction to some of the customs surrounding Passover, but it's also a story about independence. Max Osher is probably about five years old. He lives with his parents and baby sister. His mother's birthday falls during Passover, and Max and his father are supposed to make her a special Passover-friendly cake (from a mix). However, Daddy gets caught up in the needs of Max's sister, Trudy. And Max is forced to take matters into his own hands. The cake he makes (and no, safety conscious people, he does not use the oven) is creative and fun.
I'm not a fan of nonfiction disguised as fiction. As in, a book designed to introduce kids to what Passover is, disguised as a story about cake. But that is NOT what this is. What makes Max Makes a Cake work is that the entire book focuses on Max. Passover is introduced, but only as it relates to Max. So we have:
"Max Osher was an expert at getting dressed. He could almost pie his shoes. And he knew the Four Questions for Passover in Hebrew and English. He sang them in both languages at the Passover Seder. All by himself. Without any help."
There's even a completely kid-friendly explanation of what Matzoh is, which Max relates to his sister. The bottom line is that Max is a real kid. He is SO impatient when his dad is delayed. And he is SO proud of himself when his attempt to make frosting works. Most of the action in the book centers around the cake.
I thought that this book might be over my three year old's head, but she adores it. In fact, she declared it her favorite book (though we haven't read it very many times). If I think about it, there's nothing much more kid-friendly than cake. To have a kid make his own cake, for his mother, is inherently cool. And Michelle Edwards understands the interests of preschoolers, I think. Like this:
"Trudy tipped over her sippy cup. She spit out her banana smush. Then she pooped."
Yeah, that's life with a baby in the baby in the house.
Charles Santoso's illustrations are a nice fit for the story. Max is bright-eyed, with expressive features. His glower as he waits impatiently for Daddy is completely true to life. The characters are shown large against the canvas, with minimal backgrounds, keeping the reader's attention on the people.
At the end of Max Makes a Cake readers will find the recipe for Max's cake, followed by a single page of factual information about Passover. Just enough to give interested readers a jumping off point.
Max Makes a Cake is an engaging book for young kids about taking matters into their own hands. And about cake. It also introduces the concept of eating matzoh for Passover. For Jewish kids, I think this will likely be validating to see. For kids who aren't Jewish, Max Makes a Cake opens a little window into other faiths, without being at all heavy-handed. Well done all around, I'd say. And well worth a look for home or library use.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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