Hooray for Bread

This book has all the hallmarks of a traditional read-aloud favourite: a refrain that can be roared out, rhyme and rhythm, understandable language, a great topic in the lifecycle of a loaf of bread, and beautiful, deceptively simple illustrations. What’s not to like?

The book has a traditional and nostalgic feel to it. There is a sense of harking back to old-style values of order and peace and ‘all’s right with the world’. Early in the morning, the baker bakes a loaf. He samples it, crusty and warm from the oven. After his wife has eaten some, the baker’s son gets a lovely sandwich. The baker’s wife and baby then head out for a walk in the park.

Children will learn about a traditional family, about a day that is ordered and sequenced through mealtimes, about meals that can be made from bread, about animals and pets. Details matter in every picture. At one point, the loaf sits on a plate happily humming to itself while dreaming of earlier days in a sunny cornfield. In the kitchen, outside the window, in the garden and around the edges of the park, a host of details wait to be explored and discussed.

Ingman’s clever illustrations have a hazy, lazy appeal. He transmits a sense of warmth and harmony, using simple lines and pastel colours. We see smiling slices of bread, ecstatic ducks, beans with tiny legs, birdies wearing hats. Wholesomeness and comfort abound – or do they?

Perhaps some caution is needed because it would appear that a very gendered, white, ‘traditional’ set of values is being reinforced. What assumptions are being made? Which readers are being positioned as outsiders? How many children will not see their reality reflected in this depiction of ‘ordinary’ family life?