Right from the title, Sometimes Cake is yummy and appealing; who wouldn’t want a story about cake? But cake is just one part of this charming picture book.
Audrey’s friend, Lion, loves festivities. He always seems to be surrounded by balloons, confetti and party hats. But one day, when Audrey’s playmate seems pensive and quiet, Audrey knows it’s her turn to find something to celebrate. Edwina Wyatt and Tamsin Ainslie offer a sweet story about friendship, celebration and what it looks like to show up for the people—or lions—in your life.
The best word for Ainslie’s illustrations is soft. Muted colors and a cream-colored background create a warm, gentle world for these characters. Ainslie’s lines, too, are soft and sketchy, devoid of harsh edges. Little Audrey, with her untidy hair and mismatched socks, and big Lion, with his rosy cheeks and friendly expressions, make a fetching pair. Balloons, baking supplies, toys and streamers are strewn around many scenes, adding delightful disorder and perfectly embodying the book’s playful, imaginative tone. We don’t know much about Audrey and Lion, but Ainslie makes them and their world immediately likable and welcoming. Even the scene where Lion seems lonely and sad is tempered by the presence of tranquil trees and flowers.
Wyatt forgoes fancy literary flourishes for simple, brief and approachable text. She also makes excellent use of repetition, adding predictability that will engage the youngest of readers. Wyatt’s plainspoken writing has a unique sense of humor that will leave adults smiling at Audrey and Lion’s childlike logic, as when Audrey finds Lion, wearing a yellow paper crown adorned with orange pompoms, in the middle of making a yellow and orange pennant banner. “What are you celebrating?” she asks. “Orange mostly,” replies Lion, then adds, “Also yellow.”
Calm, kind and earnest, Sometimes Cake is an easy book to like. It is fun, cheery and not too rambunctious for bedtime or other quiet moments. It’s also a lovely introduction to the concept of empathy, especially for the littlest readers, and may inspire a few “regular day” celebrations. But what makes Sometimes Cake a true gem is its accessible, heartfelt message: Be the friend who shows up with cake. Bring confetti to the party. Pay attention to those around you. Sometimes it’s just Tuesday, but even Tuesdays deserve cake.