Book Review: The Cake, by Dorothée de Monfreid

Available now in bookstores nationwide. 

The blurb on the back of this hot pink book reads simply “Tiger wants to bake a cake. It doesn’t go exactly to plan.” A simple cv_the_cakeexplanation of a story that is far from simple.

The Cake looks a bit like a cake – bright raspberry icing, probably sickly sweet. Be warned, Dear Reader: this cake is anything but sweet, or full of empty calories. It is thought provoking and can lead to rich discussions.

Told entirely in dialogue enclosed in speech bubbles, and with wonderfully telling illustrations, The Cake follows Tiger and friends as they try to negotiate how to satisfy hunger. A cake? Of course. But what sort of cake? And that is where the trouble begins.

Unable to agree on a flavour, the friends fall out in a way that only people well-acquainted with children six and under will truly understand. Anger, raised voices, bombardment, threats, isolation and retaliation ensue.

The Cake is no sugary confection – it raises questions for children who have been told that it’s important to be nice, use your manners, keep your hands to yourself … and these are all good things to try to instil in our children. But the reality is that kids are human, and often respond straight from the gut, especially in conflict situations.

I read The Cake to my class of five-year-olds at the end of a term’s worth of “healthy relationships” lessons. Some of the children were quite shocked – they were used to story books in which the resolution reinforced that we need to play nicely, be friendly, etc. The Cake led to great discussions about how some people don’t always play by the “rules”, and what the children thought the characters should have done differently.

I love this book. It has fantastic, expressive illustrations, and a gorgeous, rich colour palette. I enjoyed the plot; even though it is subversive on the face of things, it promotes excellent discussion with children about the rights and wrongs of the characters. No-one condones or condemns the actions of the characters – that is left to the reader.

Highly recommended for under 8s.

Reviewed by Rachel Moore and her class

The Cake
by  Dorothée de Monfreid
Published by Gecko Press
ISBN 9781927271445