New Scholastic children’s book portrays slaves as 'happy and joyful'

This week, one author learned that when it comes to slavery, taking too much artistic liscense is bound to ruffle some feathers.

New York Times food writer Ramin Ganeshram is in hot water after her new children’s book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, portrayed a slave family as happy and joyful.

The book, which is based on a real slave named Hercules, tells the story of how Hercules as his daughter, Delia, try to make a cake for George Washington, and you’ve really got to read the book caption to believe it:

Everyone is buzzing about the president’s birthday! Especially George Washington’s servants, who scurry around the kitchen preparing to make this the best celebration ever. Oh, how George Washington loves his cake! And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem–they are out of sugar.

This story, told in the voice of Delia, Hercules’s young daughter, is based on real events, and underscores the loving exchange between a very determined father and his eager daughter, who are faced with an unspoken, bittersweet reality. No matter how delicious the president’s cake turns out to be, Delia and Papa will not taste the sweetness of freedom.

Not only is the joyful portrayal of slavery offensive but the actual person the book is based on ran away and left his daughter behind in his flight to freedom.