A Piece of Cake by LeUyen Pham reminds me of a more colorful, cartoon-like version of Candace Fleming's wonderful Clever Jack Takes the Cake, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. In both Fleming and Pham's books a friend bakes a birthday cake for another friend and, in the process of delivering the cake things go awry. With a flock of crows, an ogre and a princess, Fleming's book has a definitely has a more fairy tale feel, where Pham's is more cheerfully kooky, with humor instead of suspense.
When Mouse heads off to deliver the birthday cake he made for his friend Little Bird, he encounters his friends along the way and they all look longingly at the cake, offering to make trades for a slice of the deliciousness.
Going against all reasonable predictions, each animal offers up the unexpected. Rather than the obvious egg, chicken offers to trade a cork for a piece of cake while Squirrel, Bear and Cow all make offers that do not leave Mouse with nuts, honey or milk, an odd assortment of seeming junk and, by in the end, no cake.
Little Bird doesn't mind though, because Little Bird is as clever as Mouse is kind. The two friends embark on Mouse's journey in reverse and trade back all the items, again going against all reasonable predictions. When Cow really needs a cork to replace the missing cap to the soap bottle, Little Bird trades a piece of wire that can be used for blowing bubbles. Little Bird and Mouse trade almost all the curious items and come home with everything they need to make an even better cake.
There is a touch of the "Little Red Hen" in Pham's story, with the somewhat inconsiderate friends dipping into the birthday cake before Little Bird even gets a piece, but the kindness and good attitude with which Mouse and Little Bird approach the situation is fantastic and makes for a VERY FUN read out loud. Pham's illustrations are add to the good times in A Piece of Cake with their bright, bold colors forest setting. Pham has illustrated many picture books and, while her style is distinctive, it also varies widely and in interesting ways. She is excellent when it comes to exuberance, playfulness and expressing the imagination of children on the page. Pham's palette always pops in one way or another and her work is always worth spending time with.
Soft versions of the characters in A Piece of Cake, created by the multi-talented Pham!
The Best Birthday Party Ever written by Jennifer LaRue Huget
A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer
Other books (but not all) by Pham:
Source: Review Copy