Tea Cakes for Tosh

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Tea Cakes for Tosh Book Poster Image
Touching story of boy's bond with grandma, family history.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows and describes a bit about Southern plantation life for slaves and gently gives an explanation of why forgetfulness comes with aging: "As some people grow older," Mama tells Tosh, "their minds can have good spells and bad ones. Some memories are clear as daylight. Others may turn hazy."

Positive Messages

It's important to recall and retell family stories of courage. They inspire us and keep the bonds of family strong. If an elder starts to forget, it's up to younger ones to keep family stories -- and recipes -- alive. Also implicit: You can learn a lot from your grandparents.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grandma Honey is loving and shares important stories of ancestors' courage -- and the tea cake recipe -- with Tosh. Tosh is kind and repectful, stepping up to help when Grandma Honey starts to forget. Mama is sweet and tender with Tosh and helps him understand what's happening to Grandma Honey. Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma Ida is an inspiring figure, who risked being whipped to give slave children on the plantation "a taste of freedom."

Violence & Scariness

No violence in the present, but historical references to slavery.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tea Cakes for Tosh is a moving story about the bond between a grandmother and grandson that recalls a family's slave past and celebrates the importance of stories than connect us to our ancestors. It also shows the complex reality of a young boy discovering his beloved grandma is losing her memory. Full of love and tenderness, Tea Cakes for Tosh is a great read-aloud for kids who know a bit about slavery and are ready for a sensitive treatment of an older person's growing forgetfulness.

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What's the story?

Tosh loves it when his Grandma Honey makes her tea cakes -- an old family recipe from his Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma Ida -- and tells him the story of them, which always begins, \"Long ago, before you and I were born, our people were enslaved.\" Ida would bake the tea cakes for the plantation owner's family, but sneak a few for her own children and other young slaves. \"She risked being whipped to give the children a taste of freedom ... a promise of days to come,\" says Grandma Honey. But when she starts to get forgetful and even forgets the recipe, Tosh asks Mama to help him make the tea cakes and surprises Grandma Honey with not only the tea cakes but also the story, beginning, as usual, with, \"Long ago, before you and I were born, our people were enslaved.\"

Is it any good?

TEA CAKES FOR TOSH is a warm, sensitive story that recalls the slave period in American History. It celebrates family ties and the courage of our ancestors, and delicately captures the confusion a kid may feel when an older loved one shows signs of senility or Alzheimer's. Caldecott-winning illustrator E.B. Lewis' gorgeous watercolors are full of emotion and perfectly suited to this gentle, moving tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own family stories. What brave or funny stories have you heard loved ones tell about relatives you never met?

  • Have you read other books or seen movies about slaves in the American South? What do know about the U.S. Civil War?

  • How about asking a grandparent to tell you a family story or make a family recipe together?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love African-American stories

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