Sophie Blackall Illustration

Drawings and Snippets and Breaking News, (but more snippets than breaking news).

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Fine Dessert - Part 8

A Fine Dessert is out in the world and I've been so happy to hear about families making blackberry fool together and about teachers constructing exciting lessons – which end with dessert. I've had great fun helping kids whip cream with a whole variety of vintage whisks and Skyping with a class in Texas who had rented a museum-in-a-truck with period kitchen gadgets and clothing so they could immerse themselves in each of the centuries. There are some wonderfully inspired teachers and librarians out there. Case in point.
And if you've followed my posts about researching and illustrating this book, you know I went to some lengths to get it right. So you will imagine how I've been feeling a tad crestfallen ever since reading this really lovely, thoughtful blogpost, which gently points out the following:
"If I had to be absolutely nit-picky, the one qualm I have is at the end, when the modern family in San Diego is enjoying the dessert outside. One of the kids is chasing a firefly and, if I'm not mistaken, fireflies are very rare west of Kansas (and those that do make Southern California its habitat aren't luminescent as adults). But that's hardly enough distraction to take away from the book."
As I said to Yucaree, the author of the blog, in the last spread of the book where the dessert is shared by family, friends and neighbors, I wanted to emphasize and celebrate all the subtle social shifts which have occurred throughout the centuries. I wanted to bring the feast outside under the stars, and to have diverse friends surrounding the table. And I wanted to hark back to the slave boy in 1810 whose role it was to fan the diners, by showing a corresponding boy in 2010 – happy and free in the moment, being a child. And coming from Australia, where we don't have fireflies, I find them so magical and delightful and it seemed like just the thing.

It didn't occur to me that they don't exist in California.
Hanging my head in shame, I confessed this to my ever supportive studio mates. At 3:30pm every second Monday, we share anachronisms and anomalies, typos and tears. Not really, but we may as well. Enter my hero, Sergio Ruzzier!
A little internet sleuthing and Sergio has come up with evidence of at least one firefly spotted in California in May in 2010.And there's video footage on youtube of fireflies in CA. Rare but not impossible.



Kim Doele said...

Such a beautiful book. Celebrate that firefly!
I just bought it and can't wait to share it with my 3rd graders. Thank you for your work!

Joy Corcoran said...

I'm sure there was a firefly spirit at that gathering. The illustration is all the more lovely for the boy freely frolicking with a firefly.

Stacey said...

I love that a firefly has been found! And thank goodness because you should feel no sadness at all over this lovely book. It is my favorite of the year so far. My daughter loves it so much it is the book she chose to have me read to her class for her birthday celebration.

yucaree said...

Ms. Blackall: I am so sorry to have caused you any kind of sadness because of my criticism! I know as well as any of your fans that you are meticulous about your research and that accuracy is very important to you. I am incredibly humbled that you would take the time to address my comment, and it's wonderful that Mr. Ruzzier found evidence of fireflies in California! (I only did a quick internet search about this so hats off to his research skills!)

I am also very excited about his discovery because I'm originally from Los Angeles where they are not common at all, but I spent my summers in Japan where I regularly saw fireflies. I now live near Washington, DC and I have been delighted to have fireflies in my yard during the summer. They are indeed magical and they do evoke the right mood in the last spread of the book.

A Fine Dessert is absolutely one of my favorite picture books, not just for the year, but in recent memory. I, of course, love the story and the premise of the book, but I truly appreciate the care and thought that you and Ms. Jenkins put into the creation of the book.

With warmest regards and appreciation,
yukari m. (aka yucaree)