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Saturdays and Teacakes

"Every Saturday morning, the young narrator pedals his bike through town, passing familiar landmarks like the bank and the gas station, until he reaches his grandmother's house. The two share a special day talking, doing chores, and finally baking and feasting on Mammaw's special teacakes. Drawing on his childhood in Heflin, AL, the author splendidly re-creates these nostalgic scenes, carefully bringing the memories to life by describing the sunny kitchen, the crunch of gravel under bicycle wheels, and the sweet aroma of the cakes. The brilliant watercolor paintings glow with light and idyllically capture the world of yesterday. Older readers may enjoy sharing this book with their grandparents, and teachers might incorporate it into lessons about writing descriptive memoirs."

--Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA; copyright 2004 Reed Business Information--School Library Journal

"A young boy recalls the Saturdays he would bike to visit his Mammaw. In language rich with the sounds, smells, and tastes of days gone by, the story takes us down the road, through the town to his grandmother's hug of welcome. He cuts the lawn while she tends the garden. Then they have some lunch, and it's time for 'something sweet to eat.' With his help, she makes the dough and bakes the teacakes he enjoys so much. These vivid memories he 'won't ever forget.' The sentimental tale gets additional emotional strength from the large watercolor scenes which at times resemble color photographs. The pictures describe the idyllic small town with friendly folks, flower-bordered roads, and Mammaw's house and garden. The furnishings are right out of the mid-twentieth century. The sequence of images tells a story rich in the joy of a boyhood and the valuing of the special relationship between the generations. And the recipe for those delicious-looking teacakes is available on line."

--Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz, Children's Literature,

"Laminack (The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins) takes a sweet trip down memory lane in this ode to his grandmother... Set in Alabama in 1964, the slice-of-life story reveals the emotional connections forged by a boy's weekly bike trips to visit his grandmother 'Mammaw.' They share meals, time on the porch swing, yard work and making teacakes (the recipe for which is on the publisher's Web site). Tactile descriptions help engage readers ('[The dough] was smooth and pale yellow and smelled like fresh cotton candy at the county fair')...Soentpiet (My Brother Martin) creates an appealingly wholesome, Mayberry-esque vision of the town, with flower-filled yards, smiling gas station attendants and Mammaw's gleaming red and white kitchen. A high-intensity light seems to shine on his wide-ranging palette of watercolors, giving a souped-up, faintly surreal glow to these scenes of loving intergenerational ties..."

--Publishers Weekly

"Readers will have a hard time resisting this cover: a grinning boy of nine or ten is lord of the pile of treats in front of him: teacakes he bakes with his grandmother as the culmination of their Saturday visits. Also on the weekly agenda: mowing Mawmaw's lawn and enjoying sandwiches crafted with her just-picked tomatoes. Set in 1964 in Heflin, Alabama, there's little tension in this vignette--riding his bike there safely through the rural countryside is the hardest part of the boy's day. The impeccably rendered paintings illustrate with astonishing historical accuracy the slightly long text and capture the details of the time: gasoline pumps and automobiles in the service station, the boy's bicycle, and kitchen furnishings that suggest an even earlier time. The author crafted this as a tribute to a childhood tradition with his grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated; while not all of us had his childhood, filled with sunshine and smiles, this nostalgic look back offers up the childhood many of us wish we'd had."

--Kirkus Reviews

Author’s Note: Saturdays and Tea Cakes
Lester L. Laminack

There are special moments in our lives that glow like embers in a dying fire. Embers that can be rekindled with a single breath of air.

It might be a sound…
The sound of a voice, the creaking of an old screen door, the incessant grind of aluminum rockers on a concrete porch floor or the rhythm of wipers on a night drive in the rain.

It might be a smell…
The smell of bacon and eggs and coffee and biscuits, the smell of grass freshly mown, the whispering scent of rose water, or the fragrance of gardenia walking silently on twilight air.

It might be an image…
The sight of a young boy pedaling up hill on a shiny red bike, layers of pink and purple and orange sherbet sky at the end of day, pine trees—tall ones with great girth—carpeting the earth with rust brown straw or an old woman bending over her flowers tossing out weeds like unwanted mail.

It might be something you touch…
The warm smooth surface of a mug of hot chocolate on a through-to-your-bones-cold-day, the peach-fuzzy-feel of an old baby blanket found in the bottom of a trunk, the steam bath of summer pavement after a light rain or the bee-sting-prick of a rose thorn.

It might be something you taste…
The tart sweet filling of key lime pie, the salty crunch of chips, the first bite of a vine ripened tomato or the sour surprise of lemonade poured too soon.

Special moments lie glowing in our memories. Glowing and waiting for us to find the secret door into that place where memories are like embers. Glowing and waiting for us to fan them into flame to burn again brightly in the pages of our notebooks.

These glowing embers, these dormant memories are tied to some special moments—moments that can become glimpses into a life—moments that can become a memoir.

This story, Saturdays and Tea Cakes is that kind of story. It was a special memory tucked away and treasured—a glowing ember that was fanned into flame by the smell of cookies baking at a grocery store in the town where I live.

That smell, the smell of fresh cookies baking, was my trap door, my secret passageway into that place where memories, like embers, lie waiting for you to fan them into flame with a moment of pause and attention and care.

I walked around the grocery store that day focused on that smell. I’d go back and sniff and think. I knew of course that it smelled like fresh cookies but I just couldn’t reach the memory that smell was evoking.

Finally, as I closed my eyes and stood there with my hands on the shopping cart I breathed slowly and let that sweet fragrance reach way back in my childhood and fan those glowing embers into the flame of story.

I wrote this book to honor my grandmother, my mother’s mother, my mammaw. As a child I loved the time I spent with her because, like no other grown up, she had the time to make me the center of her attention, to make me feel so very special.

Everyone should have at least one person who can make him or her stand taller, feel bolder and smarter and to know that no matter what nothing can separate you from that love.

This story is true, a memoir from my childhood. Every word is as true as my memory can recall it. This story takes one small period of time from my whole life and gives you a glimpse into that cherished time.

I believe that memoir is a gift, a special gift because the writer is inviting you into his life, inviting you in to share his cherished moment. Inviting you to pause and give attention and care to your own cherished moments.

Think of special moments in your life. You may have a souvenir from a vacation or trip or maybe you have a photo from camp or a family gathering. Look at one of those photos or hold one of those souvenirs and try to recall the special moments you and your family wanted to hold on to. A memoir is like a souvenir in a way. It is a memento—a reminder. A memoir helps you to hold on so you will remember and so that others may know that it mattered.