Pros: Cute story but a little "old" for the target age range
Cons: Collage pictures do not do a good job illustrating the this story
My daughter's homework this week is to write mini book reports. I am trying to nudge her toward books that will make answering the questions easy. One such book is Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle.
Jack wants a big pancake for breakfast. Since his mother is busy he must help. Among other chores, Jack cuts the wheat and takes it to the mill, milks the cow and churns the cream into butter until he finally gets to eat his pancake.
My daughters love pancakes and I thought this book would help them understand what goes in to putting a pancake on the table. They do enjoy hearing this story and now my 5 year old can read it on her own. However, I think much of what is going on is lost on my children. They seem to have trouble relating the rather cumbersome chores Jack needs to accomplish to the pancake and wonder why he just doesn't have something else for breakfast.
The most confusing part of the story for my girls seems to be the process of cutting the wheat and ending up with a bag of flour. They've never seen wheat or a mill so the process is very mysterious to them. Since this is a book for 3-6 it might be reasonable to hope the illustrates would help explain the process. For those not familiar with Eric Carle's illustrations, they are collages. Acrylic paint is applied to tissue paper, which is cut and placed on the page to construct large scenes. While I appreciate the talent necessary to create pictures in this manner, they don't appeal to me. I don't think they work in this instructional style book. While I can understand people enjoying this style of illustration, it doesn't help me explain how the grain is ground into flour.
Finally with all of the ingredients assembled Jack is ready to mix up the pancake batter following his mother's simple instructions. Are my children the only ones who want to try it? Equal parts of flour and milk with an egg does not make a pancake. Stirring that until it is smooth without lumps and then cooking it results in a rubbery disc that is not at all like a pancake; yes, we did try it!
I think part of the problem with this book is that many children in the target age group do not have enough experience to draw on to understand the process. I dare say that most 4 year olds are not familiar with a flail, sickle or how a butter churn works; at least I could explain the butter churn. I found it amusing that my 5 year old believe this story takes place in England because "they don't have ingredients there like we do here, they have to make everything."