Some things never change, such as the love of a fine dessert. In this meticulously researched book, four families in four different centuries are shown preparing and enjoying Blackberry Fool, a simple but delicious dessert made from blackberries, cream, and sugar.
With each reiteration of the dessert making and eating process, children can see which elements have varied, and which have stayed the same (the most prominent one being licking the bowl at the end!). But much is different, from how the ingredients were procured and kept cold, to how the cream was made, to whether recipe books were used, to how families would gather around the table.
The families preparing the dessert include a mother and daughter in Lyme, England in 1710, a slave mother and daughter near Charleston, South Carolina in 1810, a girl and her mother in Boston in 1910, and a dad and his son in San Diego in 2010. There are many changes in culture and technology, family dynamics, and social mores in each era, not only apparent in the text, but cleverly added to the illustrations by the incomparable Sophie Blackall. Kids will enjoy trying to identify them all. Perhaps they will even be able to follow the developments in gender roles and racial relations throughout the story.
Sophie Blackall not only employed ink and watercolor in her paintings, but even used blackberry juice; the endpapers – a beautiful black-mottled purple, are made from “squished blackberries.”
Evaluation: This charming book is full of subtle history lessons for kids, and might even inspire all readers to go out and get the ingredients and document their own process (perhaps using the video function on their smart phones) of making and eating this fine dessert!
Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, 2015