Real Life: A Messy Kitchen and A Great Cake by Tina Matthews

Is it possible to feel delight and frustration at the same time?

When I’m preparing dinner and I turn around to see this sight, I most certainly feel these mixed emotions.

  • I’m frustrated that I am the one that will need to clean this up.
  • I’m frustrated that I’ll find pieces of rice all over the house for days.


  • I’m delighted that my daughter is so engaged in her play that she isn’t aware of the mess she is making.
  • I’m delighted that she doesn’t hold back from her play in fear of making a mess.
  • I’m delighted that she feels comfortable in her own home, and isn’t scared to let her imagination take over.
  • I’m delighted that she is being a child.
  • I’m delighted that she enjoys spending time playing and pretending to cook.
  • I’m delighted by the thought that this can’t possibly be the only child’s kitchen to look like this.
  • I’m delighted when I find a book that represents children and their imaginations so aptly. Our play kitchen regularly gets out of control like this, but on the day that I snapped this image we had read a wonderful new book called A Great Cake. I wonder if it provided Cam with some ideas and inspiration. (Review below)

As I wrote this list, it became obvious to me that the feelings of delight far outweighed the feelings of frustration. As a parent, I sometimes need to remind myself that a messy kitchen and five extra minutes of housekeeping will not bring the world to its end. Not letting my child explore her world just might though.

A Great Cake Book Review:

Keen to bake a cake, each morning Harvey suggests this idea to his mother only to discover that they don’t have the ingredients they need to bake a cake.

Determined not to let this stop him, Harvey applies his imagination and gathers his own ingredients, a range of items from the bathroom, toy room and garden, to make some interesting and creative cakes that are more suited to snails, lizards and butterflies than they are to people.

He makes a wonderful mess in the process, but his mother remains encouraging. Harvey is thrilled when his dad finally comes home at the end of the week with the ingredients he needs to make a real cake, one that is perfect for sharing with friends.

A Great Cake is a superb book for pre-schoolers. It explores both the natural inclination of children to make their own plans for the day and their beautiful ability to be resourceful and incredibly imaginative.

Although a delightful fictional story, A Great Cake follows a repetitive structure, which will help young children to understand processes and instructional texts.

He put flour and sugar and soft butter in a bowl.

He added three yellow eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla.

Then he beat the batter a bit and put it into the oven to cook.

Tina Matthew’s woodblock prints are always so beautiful and engaging. In comparison to her other books, A Great Cake features an abundance of colour in the illustrations. These illustrations are integral to the story.

The book suitably ends with two genuine cake recipes for children to try with a grown up.

Book Details:

By Tina Matthews

ISBN: 978-1921720062

Format: Hardback

Publisher: Walker Books Australia, October 2012

RRP: $24.95

Suitable for ages: 3+

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Real Life: A Messy Kitchen and A Great Cake by Tina Matthews


  1. Oh Jackie what a delightful mess :) The book sounds lovely. I just finished making kids a Mud pie kitchen in our backyard and they are having a wonderful time making all sorts of mudlicious treats! Mud everywhere but at least it’s easy to hose down!

    • Melissa, if your kids like baking in their mud kitchen, I think they’d particularly like this book.

  2. What a fabulous book! Heidi loves to make soup out of her own ingredients and can get quite creative about it.

  3. That looks like a gorgeous book. We love ‘Can we lick the spoon yet?’ too. There have been many re-enactments of that one (minus the dog eating the cake!).

  4. I like how you weighed your frustrations with the “delights” of the situation, it really puts it into perspective! (Love the messy photo! Glad it wasn’t mine, LOL!)

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