Tuesday, February 26, 2013
"Tea Cakes for Tosh" by Kelly Starling Lyons and E.B. Lewis
Black History Month seems like a fine time to share a terrific new children's book I came across recently, "Tea Cakes for Tosh" by Kelly Starling Lyons and E.B. Lewis. I've been meaning to do some research about why tea cakes are called tea cakes, and so this book was a must-read. I had always assumed tea cakes were a specialty of the South, but it wasn't until a few years back that I began to read about their associations with black culture.
In "Tea Cakes for Tosh," Lyons shares a sweet and simple tale about "Grandma Honey," a grandmother who shares tea cakes and their heritage with her grandson Tosh. She tells him how his great-great-great-great-grandmother Ida was enslaved, and Grandma Ida made the best tea cakes around. Ida was not supposed to share these cookies with her children, but some days she managed to slip a few in her pocket "to give the children a taste of sweet freedom." As the story continues, we find it's not just a story about black heritage, it's also a story about aging grandparents, and how one little boy learns to carry on that tea cake tradition thanks to time spent with his grandmother.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that E.B. Lewis' watercolor illustrations are, well, exquisite. Most children's books I've read have that cutesy, cookie-cutter look to the characters, but this book's illustrations capture so well the characters in this story. I love how you can even see the texture of the watercolor paper in the book's illustrations, and I actually found myself pausing to linger over the illustrations of Honey, from her black curls and wrinkled hands to the bib-style apron she wore, just like the ones once worn by my own late grandmother. I don't often get inspired to Google the illustrator behind a book, but I did this one. His art combined with Lyons' compelling story made this just a truly heartwarming read.
And yes, Grandma Honey's tea cake recipe is included at the end of the book!