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A Family is Like a Cake compares making a cake to a family: each cake has different ingredients, is a different size, turns out differently when baked, tastes different, and so on. The intention is clear but it’s hard to escape the feeling that the author could have chosen a better analogy. The comparison often appears forced and words and phrases such as ‘opportunity’, ‘tradition’, and ‘the right support’ are not explained in the context of a family. It is a picture book so one assumes it is intended for very young children. The text is full of bald statements that cry out for examples with which a child could identify; for example, ‘Families can help you feel you belong, even when you are apart from them’. Several observations – such as ‘You might even belong in different ways to different parts of your family’ would be confusing for a young child and require careful explanation and illustration. Some of the illustrations help to explain the simpler concepts but others struggle, through no fault of the artist.
Love is Like a Tree is more successful in explaining the infinite capacity human beings have for love and the way love can change. Most of the book is directed to children whose parents have separated (and in some cases have new partners) and the concepts would need very careful explication by an adult. The Author’s Note at the end of each book supports the conclusion that these picture books would be best used as handbooks for adults helping young children through difficult times.
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