A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Piece of Cake is a clever friendship story written and illustrated by veteran illustrator LeUyen Pham (Freckleface Strawberry). Mouse makes a cake for his friend's birthday, but, on the way to deliver it, various friends ask for a piece, trading him seemingly useless items for it. So by the time he reaches his friend Little Bird, the cake is all gone. Little Bird and Mouse retrace his steps and figure out a way to get the items they need to bake a new cake. The art has an old-fashioned storybook charm, and the animal friends have the rounded, friendly appeal of characters in classic cartoons. No surprise, since Pham has worked as an animator.
What's the story?
A PIECE OF CAKE is a clever take on a classic story structure in which a character sets out on a journey and meets various challenges along the way. Mouse bakes a cake for his friend's birthday, but, when he goes to deliver it, he gets waylaid by a string of friends asking for pieces. Because Mouse is "a very kind mouse," he trades pieces of the cake for a succession of very odd items offered him: a cork, a piece of wire. So when Mouse gets to his friend Little Bird's house, he has no cake and nothing of value to offer. But Little Bird has a clever and creative solution. The two retrace the route, trading the odd items back for ingredients to make another cake. As with the title of the story, the solution turns out to be "a piece of cake." And everyone's invited to the party!
Is it any good?
The art in A Piece of Cake is completely kid-friendly and charming, and the story's all the more fun because it upends expectation. As Mouse meets up with the various animals who ask for a piece of his cake, author-illustrator LeUyen Pham never takes the obvious route. Mouse doesn't ask Cow for milk or Bear for honey, though we see they have plenty in store. Instead, each of the animals along the way offers to trade something unusual and seemingly worthless. Their eventual suggestions for trades to get what's needed to make a cake illustrate their ingenuity: They suggest that the wire can be used to blow soap bubbles and the flyswatter to catapult nuts up into a tree.
There's welcome predictability in the structure of the story -- a journey past various challenges -- but sly, fun unpredictability in the solutions suggested by the protagonists. Which makes the story perfect for young readers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how it feels when friends ask for favors. Do you ever feel uncomfortable saying yes? What if you don’t want to? How can you say no gracefully?
Can you think of any other stories in which a character goes on a journey and has successive challenges along the way? Think of the fairy tales you know, or other classic stories, that have this structure. Why do you think kids like to read stories like this?
What unusual uses can you think of for a flyswatter, a cork, a piece of wire, or a net? Draw a picture of these items being used in a new way.
- Author: LeUyen Pham
- Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
- Genre: Picture Book
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Horses and Farm Animals, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: May 27, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 4 - 8
- Number of pages: 40
- Available on: Hardback
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