Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Journey Cake, Ho!

Journey Cake, Ho!
by Ruth Sawyer with pictures by Robert McCloskey/ published 1953 by The Viking Press

Not altogether dissimilar to the tale of those two forest rascals, Hansel and Gretel, Journey Cake is the story of a boy (Johnny) cast way from his keepers due to poverty (hey, that's the olden days for ya), only to return with more riches than they all could've imagined. You all know I love Robert McCloskey, and this one is penned by his mother-in-law. Though not nearly as strange and wonderful as The Man Who Lost His Head, it definitely has the feel of being written by someone born circa 1880. The reality of which offers a hugely different perspective from the one we filter things through today.

The old man tended the garden patch,
sheared the sheep, milked the cow,
felled the trees, sawed the logs,
and grumbled at his work. The grumble he liked best was:

"A bother, a pest!
All work and no rest!
Come winter, come spring,
Life's a nettlesome thing."

Sooooo, the old folks are really grumpy, and when they find all their animals gone and their cupboard bare, they send wee Johnny apackin' with nothing to his name except a pocketknife and some journey cake. I believe the cake she refers to here is cornbread -- known for it's hardiness and ability to travel well, and it is that same journey cake that flips fate for the little boy and sends him home again. A quirky little jaunt back to the past and one worth checking out if you love impeccable pig illustrations and the feeling that your parenting skills can't possibly be worse than the way folks did it way back when.

Also by:
One Morning in Maine
Burt Dow Deep-Water Man
The Man Who Lost His Head
Make Way For Ducklings

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