Tea cakes actually came to the U.S. via British colonists, who liked these sweet round buttery cookies served with their afternoon tea. While American slaves working in the kitchens were not allowed to eat them, they were required to bake and serve them. Following the emancipation of the slaves, however, African-American cooks continued to make them, and they became a tradition in black families.
Tea Cakes for Tosh celebrates that tradition with the touching story of young Tosh who loves spending time with his Grandma Honey and hearing her stories of the old days as she bakes tea cakes.
Honey tells Tosh about his “great-great-great-great-grandma Ida”:
“‘…[she] made the most delicious collards, chicken, and make-you-dance biscuits,’ Honey said. ‘Her tea cakes were the best around.
But those tea cakes were not for Grandma Ida’s children or any other young slaves. They were never supposed to taste the cookies she baked.
But some days Grandma Ida made a few extra, just the right size for hiding in her pocket. She risked being whipped to give the children a taste of sweet freedom.”
Illustrator E.B. Lewis deftly changes the tone of his watercolors to reflect the mood being conveyed by the text.
As the story continues, Honey and Tosh continue to share stories over tea cakes. But eventually, Honey can’t remember things like she used to do. Tosh even has to take over the cooking.
At the end of the book, the author has included the entire recipe for tea cakes, portions of which appear throughout the text.
Evaluation: Who me? Cry over a kid’s book? Don’t be daft! And would you please pass the Kleenex…?.
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., 2012