Cover image for Upside-down cake
Upside-down cake
Carrick, Carol.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Clarion Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
64 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
A nine-year-old boy tries to come to terms with his grief and anger when his father develops cancer, gradually becomes weaker and weaker, and then dies.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.8 1.0 34881.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Easy Fiction

On Order



A young boy recounts the past year of his family's life in this carefully crafted and sensitively illustrated chapter book. Soon after the narrator's ninth birthday and his dad's fortieth birthday, celebrated together with a deliciously gooey pineapple upside-down cake, Dad becomes sick. Before long it's obvious he won't be getting better. As his father grows weaker, the narrator struggles with anger, guilt, fear, and grief-emotions that intensify when his father finally passes away. Ultimately the narrator realizes that all his feelings are normal. What's more, it's okay to be happy, even to celebrate his next birthday with another upside-down cake. Basing the story on the experiences of her own family, Carol Carrick has written a moving and restorative book for any child who must confront loss.

Author Notes

Carol Carrick was born in Plainfield, New Jersey on May 20, 1935. She received a degree in advertising art from Hofstra University in 1957. After college, she worked as a layout and mechanical artist at several New York advertising agencies and at Coronet magazine. Her first book, The Old Barn, was published in 1966 and was primarily a vehicle for her husband Donald F. Carrick's illustrations. They collaborated on 37 books before his death in 1989 including Sleep Out, Ben and the Porcupine, Two Very Little Sisters, and Stay Away from Simon. She wrote nine more books after that including Mothers Are Like That and The Polar Bears Are Hungry, which were illustrated by her son Paul. She died due to complications from a stroke on June 6, 2013 at the age of 78.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 2^-5. The boy's birthday is the day before his dad's, so they celebrate together and take turns choosing the cake. The father's favorite is the upside-down cake of the title. Just after the boy turns 9 and his dad 40, the dad is diagnosed with cancer. Dad, kept at home, gets weaker and weaker. The narrator's four-year-old sister relieves the tension but doesn't quite understand what is happening; his mom has to leave her job and spend her time caring for Dad. When his father dies, the boy expresses fear, grief, guilt, and anger in terms children will understand: he worries when he stops thinking about his dad while shooting baskets, and he notices bleakly that his friends are uncomfortable when he talks about his father at the school lunch table. The gentle messages--that no one can protect a person from loss, that things do get easier, and that loved ones live in memory--are simply stated, and the cozy pencil sketches by Patty Bouma are straightforward and reassuring. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Carrick and Bouma (Valentine) offer a sensitive story of a boy's coming to terms with his father's illness and death. The unnamed nine-year-old narrator begins with a description of the last birthday he and his father sharedÄdigging their forks right into a pineapple upside-down cake as it sits on the serving plate ("Today's our birthday. We'll eat dinner tomorrow!" Dad explains to Mom). This memory is especially vivid, because it's the last time the boy can remember his family sharing a joyful moment; soon after, his father is diagnosed with incurable cancer. Carrick chooses a simple, direct narrative voice to convey the small episodes of awkwardness and anger, guilt and sorrow that follow. How, the boy wonders, can Mr. Kelly across the street rake leaves when his neighbor is going to die? Couldn't the phone ring and the doctor suddenly tell Mom that it was all a mistake? Is it okay to have fun while Dad grows sicker and sicker? Why does everyone at school treat him like someone special after the funeral, but later clam up when he wants to talk about his father? Bouma's pencil illustrations have a rough feel, almost as if they were sketches rather than finished pieces, a stylistic choice that works well with the understated tone of the text. This well-observed story provides a mirror for those coping with grief and will also aid those who wish to understand and empathize with a grieving friend. Ages 7-10. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-This short chapter book chronicles the last year of a father's life through the eyes of his nine-year-old son. The story begins and ends with a birthday celebration where upside-down cake is served first with, then without, the parent. Readers will empathize with the narrator as he struggles with his emotions and relates how holidays and daily events are changed by his father's illness and impending death. The boy's relationship with his Mom, toddler sister, grandparents, and a friend add realistic details to a story of a family dealing with cancer. Bouma's black-and-white sketch drawings offer representations of both sad and happy times throughout the year. A well-written book on a difficult subject.-Linda L. Plevak, Alamo Area Library System, San Antonio, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.