Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake, by Michael B. Kaplan and Stephane Jorisch
Did you know that June 6th is National Cake Day? Since becoming a blogger, I’ve become more attuned to each month’s grouping of notable, arcane and in some cases, strange things deemed worthy of celebration. For the blogger it can provide a way to group books and to introduce others that have no particular category other than ‘here is a great book deserving of an audience.’
For instance, June 4th is “Old Maid’s Day, as well as “Hug Your Cat Day”. The 9th is reserved for “Donald Duck Day with the 10th and 13th reserved for National Ice Tea Day and Sewing Machine Day, respectively. There’s even a Forgiveness Day and a Hug Holiday—the 26th and 29th. For those of you who are VERY unaware, June is also National Accordion Awareness Month. Really? Really.
But the 24th is a special favorite of mine: Teddy Bear Day. A certain A.A. Milne fellow whose legendary creation hangs out in The Hundred Acre Wood has much to celebrate that day and we, along with him. Edward Bear, aka Winnie-the-Pooh, is a teddy bear worthy of celebration and celebrate we shall—with his tale.
But first things first. In celebration of National Cake Day may I introduce Betty Bunny, a lover of that most delicious and messy of treats: chocolate cake!
Every parent has some familiarity with children who, shall we say diplomatically, have certain food preferences. In my day they were referred to as “fussy eaters”. Is that still the term of choice? Some, in the extreme, have these particular preferences to the exclusion of all OTHER foods. What’s a parent to do? It is no accident that parent and patience both begin with the letter P!
Ages ago in book time, my girls and I fell in love with a savvy, literary family of badgers. One of the female offspring, Frances by name, had such a dilemma. Created by that master storyteller Russell Hoban, the family was endowed of a sly humanity given by the brilliant illustrations of his wife, Lillian. The Frances the Badger series is classic, wise and wonderful in its ability to both teach and entertain. In Hoban’s “Bread and Jam for Frances”, the small and obstinate rodent becomes enamored of the aforementioned combo—to the exclusion of all else.
Patient, yet always one step ahead, her parents wisely put into operation the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” If you wish to have it at EVERY meal, then so be it. Frances at first is ebullient, having won out, but slooowly finds herself longing for the spaghetti her family enjoys or the veal cutlet with string beans and mashed potatoes that wafts tantalizingly past her nostrils. Variety, she learns in food, as in life, is the balance we all need.
Well, Frances has an updated kindred spirit in Betty Bunny who has redefined the term “handful” by her parents, but in a loving way. Betty is mischievous, persistent and lacking in patience. She also is not very good at trying new things. Most parents have at least one offspring who follows this path. Betty, after a dinner of carrots, potatoes and peas, dismisses the announced chocolate cake for dessert as “yucky”! All this is decided without so much as a nibble. Her sole response is, “What’s chocolate cake?” After trying a piece, it quickly and irrevocably becomes the focus of her young existence in the extreme. A fresh and interesting nutritional twist is evident here as peas, carrots and potatoes most often are balking points with kids. Not so with the Bunny family; this is a family who loves its veggies!
How Betty’s parents and siblings cope with their “handful’s” food fetish coupled with her tiny tantrums, followed closely by her honest remorse, is relatable territory for both parents and children.
The illustrations by Mr. Jorisch, curator of art museums in Canada, bring Betty winningly alive and the chocolate cake with fudge icing looks gooey and yummy—just the way I like it! This may be the tale of a family of rabbits, along with owls as teachers and puppies, lions, mice and pigs as classmates. But the feel of a modern family is evident in the small touches throughout the illustrations; from backpacks, beanbag chairs and backward baseball caps.
Hint to Betty: If the cake doesn’t work well hidden in your pocket, it’s not going to do too much better in a sock. Kids! Ya gotta love ’em for trying.
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