This is one of those picture books that you read and think, "Holy cow, how in the world did someone come up with something this clever? And how can I use it effectively with kids?" The central object in the book is a dessert- blackberry fool. The book is broken into four different chunks-- one taking place in 1710 in Lyme, England; the next in Charleston, South Carolina in 1810, the third in Boston in 1910, and the final one in San Francisco in 2010.
In each section, a child and his/her parent (a mother in the first three and a father in the last one) make blackberry fool. The process changes from century to century- in 1710 the little girl and her mother pick the blackberries and milk a cow for whipping cream, in 1810 a slave child and her mother pick the berries in the plantation garden, while the milk is delivered from a nearby dairy farm, in 1910 they get the berries at an open air market and use pasteurized cream in glass bottles, and in 2010, a little boy and his father get two cardboard boxes of blackberries and a quart of organic cream at the supermarket.
Jenkins and Blackall include lots of other historical details- everything from where the cook gets the recipe, to the kind of whisk or beater that is used, to how long it takes to beat the cream, to how the dessert is refrigerated to the clothes people wear. Author and illustrator notes in the back reveal some of the things these two craftspeople considered. And yes, there is a recipe for blackberry fool!
I think this would be a terrific read for a social studies class at the beginning of the year. It would be fun to read once just to enjoy, then another time with different kids assigned to pay attention to different details. You could also use it to introduce the language of compare and contrast.
A very fine picture book!