Leo knows nothing about cats. He thinks a cat will eat cake!
When his new kitten won’t eat cake, Leo asks his neighbors for help. But what worked years ago on fussy children at the dinner table won’t work on a hungry kitten sitting in front of a chocolate birthday cake.
Sugar will not be persuaded to take four bites of the cake. She doesn’t mind if she has to sit at the table until dark, and stunted growth warnings don’t bother her at all. She will not eat the cake!
But it’s not that Sugar is ignoring Leo’s generous offer of the last piece of birthday cake; she just wants something more suited to her tastes. By lunch time, Leo realizes Sugar doesn’t share his love of cake, but does share his fondness for chicken sandwiches and milk.
Picky eaters young or old might remember hearing what many of the characters in this book had to hear around the dinner table - phrases such as “How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t even taste it?” or “You are not leaving this table until you eat all that food” might have accompanied a child’s meal of broccoli and meatloaf as they do Sugar’s meal of cake.
Children who read this story will sympathize with Sugar and learn along with Leo. By the end of the book, Leo is a little closer to learning the dietary needs of a kitten. He can relax on the couch with Sugar asleep on his lap, but not for too long. He wants to buy cat food… and give Sugar a bath! On the last page, readers see the look on Sugar’s face as she is being lowered into a tub of water and know that Leo is going to quickly learn something else about kittens.
Rendered in pencil, ink, gouache, gesso, and watercolor, the illustrations in this book were created by Giselle Potter. The cake looks delicious, Sugar’s reactions look believable, and the neighbors she draws are diverse in age and background. It’s a safe neighborhood Leo lives in, because he can go to different houses and businesses alone, and his neighbors all join him at his house to see if Sugar will eat the birthday cake. One neighbor is so at home at Leo’s that he takes a nap on the kitchen counter.
The repetition of ‘but Sugar would not eat it’ and the cumulative wording as Leo journeys through his neighborhood will capture children’s attention and allow for participation. Speech bubbles set the neighbors words apart from the main text, and bolded text is used when the author interjects ‘but Sugar would not eat it.’
I recommend this book for its nod to childhood mealtimes and its humorous ending. The kitten doesn’t speak, but through the author’s story and the illustrator’s drawings, the reader will understand Sugar as well as if she did.
Emily Jenkins is the author of the much-loved children’s books Toys Go Out and Toy Dance Party, which follow the adventures of three toys: Lumphy, Plastic and StingRay. Her other children’s books include Five Creatures, Skunkdog, and The Little Bit Scary People.
A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Giselle Potter is the illustrator of over twenty books, including The Littlest Grape Stomper, The Boy who Loved Words, and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. She lives in New York.