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Bibliography: A Fine Dessert

A Fine Dessert

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about this book. I’ve read all the critiques, all the support, all the comments, all the tweets. I can’t look away, and I think I’m glad I can’t.

The thing that makes the most sense to me is to share the things I’ve been reading, and encourage you to read them too.

Trybrary: A Fine Dessert: Sweet Intentions, Sour Aftertaste

Calling Caldecott: A Fine Dessert

American Indians in Children’s Literature: Not Recommended: A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall: Depicting Slavery in A Fine Dessert

Reading While White: On Letting Go

Heavy Medal: What We Talk About When We Talk About Children’s Books

NPR: The Kids’ Book ‘A Fine Dessert’ Has Award Buzz – And Charges of Whitewashing Slavery

The Horn Book: Editorial: We’re not Rainbow Sprinkles

School Library Journal: Emily Jenkins Apologizes for ‘A Fine Dessert

Varian Johnson: A Slightly Different Take on A Fine Dessert

Daniél Jose Older via Storify: The Diversity Panel On ‘A Fine Dessert’

Professor Nana: Keeping the Channel Open

Fairrosa Cyber Library: Can We Talk of Solutions? Regarding Diversifying Children’s Literature

The New York Times: ‘A Fine Dessert’: Judging a Book by the Smile of a Slave

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Myra Zarnowski says:

    Thank you so much for this excellent bibliography. I will be using it myself and sharing it with my students. We all need to think deeply about the content of children’s books.

  2. I’ll never understand when there are several diversity books out there (being ignored) that the kid-lit world keeps focusing on just a few authors/illustrators. It really comes off as favoritism on these blogs. Maybe a lesson of inclusiveness which from my view is not a part of the kid-lit world and why we keep screwing up in this area.

  3. Thanks for doing this, Travis. I’ve been doing it, too, at my site, adding new pieces daily. Today I’ll add the longer video that Daniel Jose Older loaded last night, of the entire panel. Here’s the link:

  4. Wow. As a woman of color (I’m black) I am stunned by this and all the other conversations about this book in particular and diversity in books in general. You’ve all taken a beautiful book that works on many levels for a wide range of readers and demeaned it because why? Oh, that’s right, the author chose to show slaves, ohmyGod, smiling! The horror, the travesty! As Ms. Blackall says in her post, yes slavery was unspeakably horrific but the triumph of the human spirit is such that even in the darkest of times there may be an occasion where for the briefest moment one might find reason to smile. She doesn’t gloss over; you can tell from the pictures that they’re not living an easy life and the two huddled in the cabinet says all that needs to be said. It is a picture book, after all. Would you have preferred she show slaves being whipped while they picked the berries? The book isn’t about slavery it’s about a dessert! That the author felt the need to apologize, to stem the tide of vitriol coming her way most likely, is to me in itself offensive. What I, as a black woman, take from this is that people are upset that black folks were shown feeling happy rather than just beat down. Being black is a struggle but every now and then we’re able to find something to smile about too.

    • Bravo! Especially this: “The book isn’t about slavery it’s about a dessert!” All this discussion has done is make me want to read this gorgeous book to my 2nd graders.

  5. From the New York Times:

    ‘A Fine Dessert’: Judging a Book by the Smile of a Slave

    “Publishers are not thinking enough about who is reading these books,” she added. “Imagine reading ‘A Fine Dessert’ to a classroom in Philadelphia that is 90 percent African-American. How are those kids going to feel?”

    Just what kind of information about slavery to present to children, particularly very young ones, is a difficult question. While a few illustrated books, like Tom Feelings’s wordless 1996 volume, “The Middle Passage,” deal bluntly with slavery’s deepest horrors, most titles for children tend to focus on subjects like the Underground Railroad or inspiring tales of enslaved people actively struggling against oppression.

    But even heroic stories hold pitfalls. Alvina Ling, the editor in chief of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, recalled intense discussions around the order of the words in the subtitle of “Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” a 2010 picture book about a real former slave from South Carolina who created ceramics inscribed with his verses.

    “Even though he was a slave, we wanted him to be seen first as an artist,” Ms. Ling said.

    Don Tate, the author and illustrator of “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” about a North Carolina slave who taught himself to read and write and in 1829 became the first African-American to publish a book in the South, said in an email that children’s books about slavery needed to show suffering.

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