“Birthday Cake for George Washington”


Last year’s intense debate over the depiction of a slave mother and daughter in Emily Jenkins’ “A Fine Dessert” has continued with the publication of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

9780545538237_p0_v2_s192x300.jpgDelia, the narrator, is the daughter of Hercules, Washington’s enslaved chef.  Delia is very proud of her father.  He and the other servants in Washington’s kitchen take pride in the fact that they are able to cook for such a famous and important man.  That is why, according to the author, “I have depicted them as happy people.”

While both books focus on making desserts and not on the institution of slavery, many critics object to athe “dishonest treatment of slavery.”  It is interesting to note that the creative team behind “A Fine Dessert” was white and the team behind “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was one of mixed cultural and racial backgrounds.

The issue of slavery and how it is depicted in literature continues to be hotly debated.  Vicky Smith, children’s editor at “Kirkus Reviews” concludes “That a white creative team and a creative team of color came up with two books so similar proves only one thing:  intelligent people can disagree.”

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