by Rowboat Watkins
2015, 40 pages, 9.4 x 9.4 x 0.5 inches
Visual puns, illustrative foreshadowing, relatable characters, and second chances: these are the ingredients that make Rude Cakes such a treat. In a world where the background is fairly barren save for a few flowers that sprout side by side with candy canes and lollipops, Rowboat Watkins’s pouty pink pastry, a two-layer cake with an attitude, takes center stage and shows us how not to behave. Luckily, we also meet a giant cyclops who inadvertently sets the rude cake straight.
Rude Cakes is not only a fun read, it’s cathartic. Grown-ups reading this book aloud to their kids will laugh in commiseration with the pastry parents’ plight of reigning in their frosted tot. For kids, there’s plenty of opportunity for indignant head shaking at the cake’s social foibles, though it’s nearly impossible to do without cracking a smile. Afterall, not even a dessert can be sweet all of the time. And just when you think that cranky cake is going to get what’s coming to him, along comes the giant cyclops to lead by example, all the while making a mistake of his own that literally gives the cake a new outlook on what it feels like not to be heard. For a book without any people in it, every character and snippet of dialogue is truly and hilariously human.
On the surface, this is a funny little picture book about learning how to behave. And even on that level, it’s great. Everyone loves a read-aloud that includes a good yell or two, and Watkins’ narrative illustrations help teach preschoolers to read both images and social cues. But after a few reads, it’s clear just how smart and thoughtful this story really is. In very few words and completely without preaching, Rude Cakes lets us laugh our way through a lesson on social skills and self reflection.
– Marykate Smith Despres