Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together

By Andrea Tsurumi. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 48 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $12.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 4–7.

Crab Cake is a picture book, and what a picture book! Sea creatures who live near the shore are pictured doing ordinary things: “Sea Turtle holds her breath. . . . Pufferfish puffs up. . . . Octopus hides in a coconut.” And so on, but Crab . . . “Crab bakes cakes”—all kinds from layer cakes to cupcakes.

The illustrations by Andrea Tsurumi are delightful, with humorous details that keep you looking. The text is set in her hand-drawn font, creating a harmonious look. Life goes on under the sea: “Snapper eats and eats and eats and eats,” while the “venomous Lionfish does whatever she pleases,” until there is a disaster. A garbage scow dumps its load on the reef. All the sea creatures are stunned. They freeze in fear and uncertainty.

But Crab bakes another cake and shares it. By doing the usual, at an unusual moment, Crab lightens the mood. With renewed energy and cooperation, the members of the reef community return the junk to a dock in a marina where it is the humans who are stunned. Crab Cake is an environmental fable for our time with a universal message, written on signs inked by Octopus in all caps: “COME GET YOUR JUNK!” At the end, there is a list of four kid-friendly, ocean-care Internet resources, including National Geographic’s #PlanetorPlastic initiative. We recommend these to supplement the Quaker Earthcare Witness Earthcare for Children curriculum.

A lighthearted attitude keeps Crab Cake from being preachy and draws you in. It’s a read-and-point book that has enough levels of interest to keep adults engaged through many re-read requests.

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