Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Sugar Mouse Cake: CPSIA-Endangered Books

All-Purpose and General Jinjur (get the joke?) posted an (inside-pages) photo last August of her favorite children's book: Gene Zion's The Sugar Mouse Cake. Read her comments and the reviews at Amazon (there are 22 of them), and you'll see the same thing over and over: "I loved this book but didn't own it. We took it out of the library over and over and over..." Same here. We loved the talented mouse, the truly amazing cakes in the baking contest, the queen's cheesecake-induced "nightmare" ("A mouse...was dancing...on that cake!"), and Tom's great big splash into the moat. And the happy mouse-baker reunion at the end.

It was published in 1964 but never reprinted. My guess is that the cake-guzzling queen may be a harder sell these politically-and-anatomically-correct days than she was forty-five years ago. Still, with all that begging, maybe somebody will pick it up for reprinting; Zion's Harry the Dirty Dog books are still very much in print. (Somebody did ask the reprinting question on

But in the meantime, it's contraband. That is, if you can find a copy. The cheapest one on is $95 U.S. Does that put it in the category of fancy adult collectibles and out of the reach of the CPSIA? I don't think's just scarce and expensive. The $95 copy says "Book Condition: Acceptable. POOR. Both hinges are taped and pages have many smudges. Cardboard showing at cover corners. DJ in mylar has wear at the corners. Very well-read...."

Sounds like the copy we found a few years ago at a library sale. And I'm not selling it.

Well, I can't anyway. Unless you don't live in the U.S.

Confused feetnote...Actually, I've noticed that U.S. sellers on do not seem to have withdrawn their listings for pre-1985 books. Maybe they're hoping the government will back off.


Birdie said...

I'm afraid that a number of our books would now be considered contraband. I doubt that they would have any real value other than to the children who read and love them. It saddens me to think that future generations may not have the opportunity to do just that.

Sebastian said...

We have a similar history with the book Bravest of All. A lovely story about an aging fireman. It has long been hard to find and expensive, sitting as it does on the junction of fire buff, Little Golden Book and African Americans in literature collecting.
It is so hard to find that when our copy got wet during one move, we actually dried it out in the oven and weighted it down with dictionaries to save it.
DH found a copy for $1 in an antique store last summer. I guess those days are gone.

Jane said...

I, too, have always loved The Sugar Mouse Cake and wondered what technicality has kept it from being reprinted. Though the chubby queen is not politically correct, she's kind of a good cautionary tale in that respect. She eats to excess and she gets sick, etc. Anyway, with all the food shows on TV and the interest in fancy cakes, I'll be the book would be a big hit if it was for sale these days. Along with Dare Wright's book The Lonely Doll, The SMC was and is my favorite children's book. I bought a used copy of it about twenty years ago and it cost me $60.00 back then!

I'm glad someone else out there loves it too! I think the book must have presaged my life; I'm studying now to be a pastry chef (second career and all that)!


Anonymous said...

I entirely agree with you all!!! The Sugar Mouse Cake MUST be brought back! I own 6 copies and loan them out constantly to the young people at the private school I cook at. They love the story! I wish we could track down any remaining family of Mr. Zion. Let's try!!!