I introduced Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming by telling the class that I chose the book at the library because it is illustrated by G. Brian Karas, one of my favourite illustrators. Eddy piped up, “Ms Gelson – lots of times you pick a book because you like the illustrator. Why do you always do that?” I explained that picture books to me are very much a partnership of great illustrations and a really good story – when each are great, the other is even stronger. Sometimes, if I don’t really like the illustrations they interfere with my enjoyment of a great story. Not in this case! This book tells an excellent, highly engaging story with illustrations that add to the drama and fun.
Jack decides to bake a cake to take to the princess on her tenth birthday when he realizes he has nothing to give her and no money to buy a present. On the way to the castle he needs to contend with a flock of blackbirds, a troll, a dark spooky forest and an unfortunate food allergy. He arrives at the feet of the princess with nothing to give her except the telling of his amazing adventure of trying to bring his cake to the castle. The princess is delighted with this meaningful gift and we celebrated Jack’s positive outlook and clever strategies all along the way.
Because kids say it best:
“When you have nothing else, you still have your story.” (Kevin)
“You don’t always need a present. Just coming to a party is already a gift.” (Alyson)
We had some great text to text connections to this story. The gift of a story reminded us of Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman where in the end there is nothing left for Joseph’s Grandfather to stitch up into something new. But there is enough material to make . . . a wonderful story!
When the princess was bored and unimpressed by the lavish gifts of jewels and treasures from all of the party guests, we were reminded of The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau. The King demands present after present but none have any meaning to him until he discovers the beautiful gift of giving.