By Lisa Sandoz Robinson @LoveTheLibrary1
“A Fine Dessert” tells the story of four different parent-child pairs who make the same simple but wonderful dessert called Blackberry Fool over a 400-year timespan, from 1710 until 2010. Throughout the timeline of the book, the setting changes, kitchen technology changes, the cultural norms change, and the identities and situations of the characters change. But the dessert itself and the simple pleasure of “licking the spoon” is always a delight for the child helping the parent to prepare the dessert. The recipe is included at the end of the book for parents and children to create their own version of this historic treat.
Despite this note and the book’s initial positive reviews, many critics have condemned the book. One such critic was librarian Elisa Gall. In a post entitled “A Fine Dessert: Sweet Intentions, Sour Aftertaste,” she wrote, “…the result is a narrative in which readers see slavery as unpleasant but not horrendous...”and voiced concerns about what message the book would send to readers about the nature of slavery.
Jenkins has acknowledged that the concerns are valid, issued an apology, and announced that her proceeds would be donated to the organization We Need Diverse Books. In a comment to a critical post on the blog “Reading While White, the author wrote: “I have come to understand that my book, while intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive. I own that and am very sorry.”
The Texas Library Association, sponsors of the Bluebonnet Book program, released a statement explaining that for reasons of intellectual freedom, they are retaining the book on this year’s Bluebonnet list. “We applaud the individuals who have made their concerns known. We respect Ms. Jenkins for taking a positive stance on this matter. We will use this discussion as a teaching moment in our work crafting TLA reading lists and in expanding the learning opportunity to the public.”
It is my hope that when reading this Bluebonnet Book to or with children, parents, teachers, and librarians will take advantage of the opportunity to talk about difficult issues of slavery and racism, and how changing perspectives of history are reflected in the books we read, the art we contemplate, and the movies we watch. This book also allows us to talk about the truth that although many things change over time, some things will never change, including most importantly, the love that a parent and child have for each other and for the time they are able to spend together.
For great resources for all the Bluebonnet books, go to: