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Sugar Would Not Eat It: 11/21/10

cover art

Harriet's favorite types of books fall into a small number of categories: books with characters named Harriet, books about cats, books about princesses and books about cute children. Sugar Would Not Eat by Emily Jenkins falls into categories one and two.

Leo has just had a birthday party with all his local neighbor friends. He made a chocolate cat with blue frosting roses. He has one piece left. He decides to share it with a small Prussian blue kitten he's found outside his apartment building. He's dismayed and frustrated when Sugar the kitten won't eat the cake. One by one he goes to his neighbor friends (including an old lady named Harriet) and each one gives him the advice typically given to parents of picky eaters. Sugar though isn't a child, she's a kitten.

My initial reaction was one of horror at the thought of Leo trying to make Sugar eat chocolate cake. Chocolate's not good for cats and most cats don't have the gene that allows them to taste sugar. Cake is way outside what a cat would consider food. Depriving the kitten of food to make her eat something she won't eat is cruel.
My daughter also knows that cats can't eat chocolate cake and can't taste sugar. She knows about chocolate because we have a cat her grandparents have a dog. So we've warned her and Sean about offering chocolate to the animals. She recently learned about taste buds in preschool and we got to talking about how a person's sense of taste is different from a cat's or a dog's.

So she and I went into the book with the same knowledge but our reactions were completely opposite. Where I saw cruelty and a book about irresponsible pet care, Harriet saw broad humor. She got right away that it was parody (though not necessarily parody of parents and children at the dinner table). She also of course loved the inclusion of a character named Harriet. She's the only Harriet she knows so running into them in fiction is always a thrill for her.

Most importantly though, the book is one that uses words she can read. So when we were done reading the book together and talking about it, she re-read it to herself a bunch of times. She also re-read it to me a few more.

So the five out of five stars is Harriet's rating. Although I still don't love it as much as she does, I have come to appreciate it's appeal.

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