REVIEW: RUDE CAKES, BY ROWBOAT WATKINS

91U4+7eyeIL._SL1500_Rude Cakes
Written and illustrated by Rowboat Watkins
Published by Chronicle Books, June 2015


Having trouble talking to your child about bad manners or bullying? Rowboat Watkins has made it a piece of cake. His newest book is wrapped in delicious illustration and insightful messages to help young kids understand why being kind and having gratitude is important.

Rude Cakes features a big pink cake with a bad attitude. He’s number one, and you better not forget it. Wanted to keep that dolly? Should have left it at home today. He bumped into you, and knocked you down? Well, pay attention! This is a cake that doesn’t bat an eye when a brownie or marshmallow is left bawling on the ground. This is a cake without perspective.

This isn’t just happening on the school yard.  RC doesn’t respect his parents.  He is unimpressed by their efforts to please and surprise him. His employment of selective hearing is genius and effective in getting under his mother’s icing. If left on this track, RC is headed down the dangerous path to obnoxious cake. And everyone knows obnoxious cakes, like fruit cakes, end up re-gifted, or doomed to the freezer forever.

Luckily for him, he’s mistaken for a jaunty little hat, and it changes his life in more ways than he ever imagined.

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Watkins has cleverly captured multiple perspectives, from the buffoonery of RC, to the delight and dread of the ill -treated desserts.  The art is beautiful, bright and engaging, with a tip of the hat to Mr. Sendak.  The whimsy of the pictures brings an understated emphasis to the text. The first time we finished this book, my daughter looked at me and said “Mommy, sometimes I’m the baby marshmallow, but sometimes… I’m a rude cake.” This opened an unexpected conversation into her days at school, and her behaviour, which is priceless, because getting her to talk about her experiences can be like pulling teeth.

Rude Cakes resonates, thanks to the parallels between real life and the absurd. Depict these situations with human characters, and it’s bound to send a parent into paroxysms of hair-pulling; however, depict it with desserts, and it’s not only palatable, it’s hilarious and lovely.  In an unobtrusive, and respectful way, the story promotes healthy and open conversation, and –most importantly– self reflection. This is a key tool for the 3- to 5-year old age group, his target audience.

I would be remiss to neglect the fact that there are “Cyclopses,” and that Mr. Watkins championed the word, which isn’t in the dictionary, specifically so that people wouldn’t be confused by the word Cyclopes (the proper pluralization).  Our daughter was incredibly impressed, even more so than when she found out the author actually goes by the name Rowboat.

This instant classic would be a welcome addition to any child’s collection. Add it to your reading list.

–R.B.


Kinderlit requested and received a review copy of Rude Cakes in exchange for an honest review. Read about our review policy here.

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