CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number . . . . November 10, 2017
Baby Cakes leads young readers through the sometimes grimy – but oh-so-fun – process of baking muffins, showcasing the kitchen adventures of two young siblings and their feisty kitten. The bakers-in-training are introduced to various concepts, such as measurement, cleanliness, and the importance of adult help at key stages (such as putting the muffins in the oven). The text is presented as short, catchy sentences and phrases and is complemented by colourful illustrations. As an added touch, the book contains recipes for two different cupcakes, along with one frosting recipe.
Although Baby Cakes certainly adds to the range of culinary works now accessible to children, it presents three areas of concern that discerning readers may not be able to surmount. Firstly, the recipes present amounts of butter in sticks first and cups in parentheses, which is not consistent with Canadian convention. Secondly, the text of the book suggests that it is written for very young children, but the instructions in the recipes are written in a style for older children. For instance, it is suggested that a hand mixer would aid in the process of making frosting and that “[i]f one is available, ask your adult helper to assist you with using this piece of equipment.” This sentence is strikingly more sophisticated than the baby-speak that is used in the main text. Any child who can understand that instructional sentence would probably find the main text to be infantile in comparison. Lastly, and most concerning, is the representation of the adult helper as female. This is yet another case of gender stereotypes being perpetuated in books for children. If we are truly interested in achieving gender equality, then we must very consciously eliminate stereotypes in children’s literature, for awareness, enlightenment, understanding, and change begins with our youngest members of society. Baby Cakes is recommended only for comprehensive children’s collections in public libraries.
Roxy Garstad is the Collections Librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.