SOUR CAKES

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A child with olive skin and wavy black pigtails races to wake a younger sibling with a declaration to “play outside!” However, the younger child retorts, “Why out? Today I like in.” The older sibling acquiesces to indoor play and suggests singing a song quietly. This prompts the out-of-sorts younger sibling to sing loudly. The precedent is set, with the older sibling indulging in the younger’s requests only to have seemingly accommodating suggestions—to color a picture or to bake treats—met with a contrarian reply. The energetic figures are set against a simple background and occasional broad strokes of bold colors that play with perspective. Things come to a head when the younger declares that they feel like throwing rocks and kicking leaves and that they want “the sun to turn off,” eventually admitting they want “to disappear” as Kwan envelops the child in billowing clouds of gray. Gently the older sibling offers to “disappear with” the younger, offering to “bring a song to yell” and to make “a cake that’s sour” (with the option to make a cake that is sweet). Touched, the younger confidently asks to dance, stomp, and jump “Till the fog fades away.” The spare, dialogue-only text is just enough to model for young readers what compassion and empathy look like when acknowledging the feelings of others.

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