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Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown
Contributor(s): Hopkinson, Deborah, Potter, Giselle (Illustrator)
ISBN: 0385390173     ISBN-13: 9780385390170
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade Books
    OUR PRICE: $16.20  
Product Type: Hardcover
Published: May 2017
Annotation: An overwhelmed mother of six boys in late 18th-century America finds help in the culinary expertise of an assistant who uses organizational strategies to create a first American cookbook of wonderful foods, including 13 Independence Cakes for George Washington. Simultaneous eBook.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Cooks; United States; Juvenile fiction.
Cake; Juvenile fiction.
Cooks; Fiction.
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Fiction | Historical | United States
- Juvenile Fiction | Holidays & Celebrations | Patriotic Holidays
- Juvenile Fiction | Biographical | United States
Dewey: [E]
LCCN: 2014040302
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 1-2, Age 6-7
Book type: Easy Fiction
Physical Information: 11.25" H x 8.50" W x 0.25" (1.04 lbs)
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): Deborah Hopkinson is the prolific, bestselling, and versatile author of many books for children, including Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, which Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, called, "a charming, delightful homage." Hopkinson’s backlist picture-book gems include the ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, and Fannie in the Kitchen, which is also about a cookbook writer and received four starred reviews. Deborah Hopkinson was awarded a Robert F. Sibert Honor for Titanic: Voices from the Disaster. Visit her at or on Twitter @deborahopkinson.
Giselle Potter is the author of This Is My Dollhouse, which the New York Times hailed as “celebrat[ing] the best of free play.” She has illustrated many books for children, among them Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Pope Osborne, an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book; The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, a Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner; and Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey. She also wrote and illustrated Tell Me What to Dream About. Giselle lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2017 Fall)
In Hopkinson's admittedly "made-up tale" based on the female author of American Cookery, the first American cookbook, orphan Amelia Simmons learns to cook from a Patriot townswoman and goes on to bake thirteen cakes served at Washington's inauguration. Entertaining--and informative of Revolutionary-era domesticity--the charming story pairs well with Potter's flattened folk art in watercolor and ink. A historical author's note is appended. Websites. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2017 March #1)

Next to nothing is known about Amelia Simmons, whose American Cookery, published in 1796, was the first cookbook to be written by an American and to incorporate native ingredients. So Hopkinson (Steamboat School) and Potter (This Is My Dollhouse) create a lively backstory for this culinary revolutionary. Orphaned and sent to work as a housemaid for the frazzled Mrs. Bean, Amelia impresses with her unflappable demeanor and soon takes over the kitchen. "We are independent now," she tells Mrs. Bean. "I want to learn good, plain American cookery and share recipes with my fellow citizens." She wows the Bean children with cornmeal flapjacks and President Washington with a slice of Independence Cake created for his inauguration. Hopkinson's text can be a little on the nose ("You've brightened our lives like a star on the flag," says Mrs. Bean), but Potter's signature rendering style is an ideal match for the subject matter, her flattened perspectives, understated expressions, and creamy colors harking back to 18th-century portraiture. Both budding chefs and those who happily (and patriotically) consume their handiwork will eat this up. Ages 4–8. Author's agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)

Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2017 April)

Gr 3–5—Just as cooks wash their hands before they get to work, so does Hopkinson come clean about this story: Amelia Simmons, the writer of the first American cookbook, did exist, but almost everything else in the following pages is a delightful concoction based on the scant details known about her life. Amelia describes herself as "an American orphan": her father is imagined to be a fallen soldier; her mother, a victim of smallpox; and Amelia, a "bound girl" taken in by a large family to help with the household. She learns to cook English dishes and eventually creates new recipes using local ingredients, such as winter squash for pudding and cornmeal for flapjacks. Culinary parallels to the Revolutionary War are cleverly woven throughout, and the watercolor and ink illustrations, relying on a delectable, warm palette, depict red apples, pumpkins, lemons, pickles, and sacks of grain. Though the details are made up, Amelia is still an inspiring character, so much so that readers may even want to tackle the "independence cake" recipe, with its 20 pounds of flour and 15 pounds of sugar. An author's note and links for modern versions of Election Day cakes are also included. VERDICT A strange but appealing bit of Americana that might fit into some history and maker units. Like most confections, it's an additional but nonessential purchase.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.