2013 Skipping Stones Honor Award

Fall 2012 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)

CCBC Choices 2013

Highly Commended Title,

Charlotte Zolotow Award committee

2012 Teaching for Change Staff Favorites

(included in list of 10 titles)


"This superbly written story reminds adults what children experience when their beloved grandparents begin to age. Tosh spends his time with Grandma Honey while mom is at work. Tosh’s favorite activity is baking tea cakes together. Each time, Grandma tells Tosh the story of his great-great-great-great grandma who made them for her master’s family. The story transports Tosh and the reader back in time. Eventually Grandma Honey begins to forget things, and Tosh becomes scared when Grandma is not herself. It is up to Tosh to help Grandma remember by retelling the story to her. Caldecott Honor illustrator E. B. Lewis creates beautiful life-like illustrations worthy of this story. Complete with the author’s family recipe for tea cakes, this book will appeal to any child who is close to grandparents. It makes a wonderful read-aloud and will meet the Social Studies curriculum. It will also work well for lessons with making predictions."

-- Karen Gedeon, Library Media Specialist, Macedonia, Ohio


Detailed watercolor art pairs precisely with earnest, delicate prose to create a gentle yet substantive picture book.

Lyons delivers a sweet tale of a boy and his grandma, Honey, that has an unexpected twist. Little Tosh delights in his grandmother's stories about how she learned to make her delicious tea cakes. Heaping scoops of family history along with each spoon of sugar or measured cup of flour, Tosh's grandmother spices her tales with more than cinnamon—she laces the batter with pride in her heritage and her past. Sharing her cooking ritual with her grandson is a way to ensure this legacy has a future. Tosh eats it up—both Honey’s wisdom and her treats. When, little by little, Honey’s memory gets stuck in odd places, Tosh decides to put hismemory to work. Caldecott Honoree Lewis (Coming on Home Soon, 2004) delivers realistic, evocative paintings that place readers right in Honey’s kitchen. Shifting from full-color paintings to monochrome grays or blues for her reminiscences, Lewis sharpens and softens our focus just as memories go bright then fade.

A charmer; all that’s missing are the hugs."


"Tosh and his grandmother Honey share a special bond, cemented by a story that she has been telling him his whole life. It begins: "Long ago, before you and I were born, our people were enslaved." She follows with the story of a plantation cook who sneaked tea cakes out of the master's house in order to give a taste of sweet freedom to her grandchildren. When Honey shows signs of old age and forgetfulness, Tosh himself bakes the tea cakes to share with her, ensuring that the tradition will survive. Lyons does a wonderful job of showing how cross-generational relationships teach us to respect the past and plan for the future. Lewis's watercolor paintings are miraculously realistic, evoking the characters' relationship and spirit and depicting long-ago plantation life in gray and white to emphasize the shift in time."


"When family recipes are passed down from one generation to the next, stories often accompany them; so it is with the tea cakes that Tosh's grandmother, Honey, bakes for him. Lewis's milky watercolors shift from color to sepia as Honey shares the story of Tosh's 'great-great-great-great-grandma Ida,' an expert cook who would secret away a couple of her famous tea cakes to give to her children and other young slaves. Back in the present, however, Honey's memory is becoming spotty, and Tosh organizes a role reversal of sorts, baking tea cakes for Honey and telling her Ida's story. 'In a blink, Tosh's words carried his grandma from her seat to the plantation, a place neither had been but their hearts knew well,' writes Lyons (Ellen's Broom). Caldecott Honoree Lewis's (Coming on Home Soon) watercolors glow with intergenerational tenderness and familial pride; recipe cards showcase the items needed to make tea cakes (a recipe is also included), underscoring the idea that a few simple ingredients can create not just a treat but, as Honey puts it, 'a promise of days to come.'"


"Tosh loves when his grandma Honey bakes her special golden tea cakes. He also loves her stories of a brave family history stretching back to slavery times. Tosh’s great-great-great-great-grandma Ida made the best tea cakes, and although she was forbidden to give them to her children and other young slaves, she hid a few in her pocket and risked being whipped to give the children “a taste of sweet freedom.” Lewis illustrates the warm, intimate story with beautiful full-page watercolors—sepia shades for the past, full
color for the present day—that show the close bond between Tosh and his grandma as they spend their afternoons together. Then Grandma Honey starts forgetting things, but when Tosh makes the tea cakes, she remembers the proud family story. The climax is first a sepia-tone image of Grandma Ida on the plantation, giving young people the golden treats, followed by a scene of a close embrace between Tosh and his grandma now. The final full recipe adds to the enduring story of courage and caring."

— Hazel Rochman


"This heart-tugging book tells the story of a young boy
named Tosh who loves to spend time with his grandmother, Honey. Each time Tosh visits, he looks forward to having another serving of Honey’s delicious tea cakes, which smell like “vanilla mixed with sunshine” and provide a taste that “warms his heart.” Along with her delightful treats, Honey
never forgets to tell Tosh the story of how she became
acquainted with their remarkable taste . . .
This book nicely illustrates how history is passed down from one generation to the next in African-American culture. Like many children, Tosh learns to associate a specific food with storytelling, and by the end of the story, readers can see how the two intimately relate. As Grandma Honey’s memory fades away, the stories of the plantation and Grandma Ida’s tea cakes
are preserved through Tosh, who will likely share the
same stories with his children. Tea Cakes for Tosh is a
great read for any child, as it colorfully celebrates the
relationship between family, food, and stories.

—Kamiiya Williams, African American, Univ. of Oregon



"I know Grandma Honey, the heart of this children's book winner, Tea Cakes for Tosh (G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99), isn't real but she certainly feels real to me . . . This sweet one is perfect for the holidays or anytime."


"Kelly Starling Lyons' book is as sweet as the recipe it contains for that all-time favorite, tea cakes. The book reminds me of my early days learning cooking at baking from my Mom and Grandmother and uses food to take the young mind back to the beginnings of our hist...ory and tells us a bit about who we are today. The book is sensitive to the role of slavery in African American history while addressing the problem of aging and the feelings a young person experiences as they encounter the challenges their elders face. A beautiful story with accurate beautiful images telling a delicious morsel of a narrative."


"An invaluable new resource/picture book: Tea Cakes for Tosh written by Kelly Starling Lyons, author of Ellen's Broom, and illustrated by the masterful E.B. Lewis. Tosh, a young African-American boy, learns from his grandmother Honey how to make teacakes, a family recipe passed down from his great-great-great-great-grandmother Ida. “Long ago, before you and I were born,” Honey begins, “our people were enslaved.” She explains that even though Ida baked these cookies, she could not feed them to her own children. “Some days, Grandma Ida made a few extra, just the right size for hiding in her pocket. She risked being whipped to give the children a sweet taste of freedom.” This is the only mention of violence in the text, which is beautifully paced so that young children can ask questions at this point and an adult can answer. Lyons weaves in a story about aging and the importance of memory—Grandma Honey starts forgetting even the things she knows by heart, like the recipe. Tosh talks with his mom and realizes that he knows the recipe from all the times he’s baked with Honey. When he shares the cookies with Grandma Honey, it’s his turn to tell the story. By the end, Honey joins in the telling, “their words flying free."

-- Amy Rothschild, early childhood educator and Teaching for Change volunteer



"Tea Cakes for Tosh cleverly accentuates fondness between a grandmother and grandson. It's a terrific children's book that will appeal to a wide range of ages. The book is illustrated exceptionally well and tells a wonderful story of courage."


"A lovely book for any youngster, whether your family is honoring the generosity of Christmas, the mitzvahs of Hanukkah or the Kwanzaa principles of umoja (unity) and kuumba (creativity). Tosh loves helping his grandmother, Honey, make the cookies baked by his ancestor, Ida. An enslaved cook on a plantation, Ida would sneak some of these tea cakes to the young slaves, giving them a “taste of sweet freedom,” according to Honey’s stories. When Honey starts becoming forgetful, Tosh becomes the one to make the cookies and tell his beloved grandmother the tea-cake family story she first shared with him. Soft-toned watercolors by Caldecott Honoree E. B. Lewis evoke the sense of love and generational connection at the heart of this tender tale by Kelly Starling Lyons."

-- Mary Quattlebaum