Friday, July 26, 2013

The Giant Jam Sandwich

We've been eating my homemade strawberry jam all summer. We've enjoyed it and I'm determined to do it again. This batch never set quite right; it remained a little runny and wet. But it tastes good and I had a nice time making it. I will get it right with practice. I want to try other jams too, and possibly a citrus curd.

My strawberry jam endeavor and our summer of eating it reminds me of a book I loved as a child. I still have this book and my kids love it today. The book is called The Giant Jam Sandwich and it's still available to buy today. I was given this book when I was about four years old and it was one of my favorites right away. In fact, it still is. I thought I'd share it with you because it's really fun. It's a silly, rhyming story about a wasp invasion in a small town and the townspeople's innovative plan to catch them - using a giant jam sandwich, naturally.

Our copy is really worn out and the Bear has made some repairs to it. He can frequently be found repairing children's books. He started doing this when the LB was a toddler and a little too rough on books. The GB was even harder on them when she was younger. He read about book repair online and bought some supplies. When he's fixing a book, he calls it "Book Hospital." This particular book needed a new binding and he wrote the title on the reconditioned spine.

This book was published in 1972; I was born in 1978. It was a relatively new book when I was a young child. I think it's pretty timeless. Well, some of the illustrations might be a bit telling. They are very good, though. I found them to be really engaging when I was a child.

We set the stage with a massive invasion of wasps. Four million of them, to be exact. They descend on the small municipality of Itching Down and apparently, they mean to stay. As an aside, it has always been my hunch that this book may have been written with Britain in mind. I feel that way because of the place name "Down"; this feels English to me. Some of the architecture and characters also lend to this feeling.

People can't picnic or work in the fields due to these pesky wasps. So the villagers have a meeting to discuss the problem. Meanwhile, folks continue to do battle with the wasps outside the village hall, as seen through the windows, and wasps line up in formation on the windowsills. I always liked that wasp drawn on the chalkboard easel, and now appreciate the Latin inscription too.

At length, they decide to create a giant jam sandwich that they can use to lure, and trap, the four million interlopers. Farmer Seed, seen above, offers his field for the task. Ladies, including this flame-haired fashion plate, can't help but squeal. It's that exciting.

They make a behemoth loaf of bread first, as well as an appropriately large tablecloth. Wasps appreciate niceties like tablecloths. The baker overseeing the bread production is named Bap, which is another reason I feel like this book has an English background; isn't a "bap" a type of bread roll? Also, there are the half-timbered buildings in some pictures. Mind you, I've never been to England, this is all based on my fanciful imaginings about the country.

The bread loaf is baked by "fifty cookers in an old brick mill," then sliced with a huge saw. The slices are then carried on a horse-drawn cart to Farmer Seed's field, where one slice is spread with butter and jam (the jam was made by townspeople from massive amounts of strawberries). The wasps immediately flock to the sandwich and become mired in the jam. Once the wasps are successfully encumbered, the townspeople drop the other slice of bread onto them, via helicopter, trapping them inside the sandwich. Only three wily wasps manage to escape.

Ladies and gentlemen of style and taste dance the night away in celebration of their heroic feat. Even Bap the Baker kicks up his heels, along with this other fellow who dresses like Sherlock Holmes.

The sandwich, ostensibly filled with dead wasps, is carried off by birds who will now "have a feast for a hundred weeks." They fly off into the sunset, using their beaks to carry the sandwich in the bespoke tablecloth. A satisfying ending if ever there was one.

I'm poking a bit of fun but I really love this book. I read it countless times as a child and now read it often with my own children. If you can get a copy of this book, or can borrow one from the library, I think you'd enjoy it too. How about you? Is there a book that you still love, that you've been able to share with your own children? I'd really love to hear about it if you feel the same way about a book from your childhood. I wonder if we have any in common?


  1. This book is very charming! I suppose, these days, when "only three wasps escape" that would be the setting for a sequel!
    The books I read as a child, shared with my daughters, and now my grandchildren, are folk and fairy tales. An extensive collection of them came in a set called "My Book House." I still have these and we read from them all the time.

  2. I would say (being English myself!) that this is definately an English book, or that the illustrator was English. All the scenes look very English countrysideish and remind me of the books and illustrations that I had as a child (I was born before this book was published).

    Also, that tractor looks like something called a Massey Ferguson tractor to me and they are very English!

    So, I claim this book on behalf of all English people to be English, but love that you have loved it for all these years and that your children are now loving it too.

    Have fun with your jam making.
    If you ever make it to England you will see the countryside looks a little different nowadays, but is still very pretty.

  3. That is a fun book! Our teachers read us Henry Huggins books as it was written here in the Portland, Oregon area with the streets named after real streets here, Klickitat Street. Try raspberry freezer jam! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  4. Enjoyed your storytelling and pictures. One of my favourites that I shared with my girls were a little box set of 4 Maurice Sendak books: One Was Johnny, Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup With Rice & Pierre. Enjoy your jam :)

  5. Yes, I would say your book is definitely set in England. I think the last pic looks like the White Cliffs of Dover and the timbered buildings are usually described as 'Tudor', or 'mock-Tudor' if you were to build your house like that these days. I love the pic of them all dancing. Fab illustrations. Thanks for sharing and lovely that you still have the book and read it to your own children now.
    ps A 'Bap' is a large bread roll.

  6. Oh what a lovely book! I hadnt heard of this story before. My favourite ladybird book is Princess and the Pea.Sadly I dont have a copy of it.I keep looking in the charity shops to find an old copy to no avail.

  7. What a great book! Itching Down does sound like an English village, it's true. I am slightly obsessed with my favourite books from childhood and went on a mission to track down out of print copies of ones my mum threw out a few years ago. I still love looking through them now. X

  8. I love your book, there is so much detail in the illustrations. That's what I remember most about the books when I was really wee. I loved Richard Scarry books and Busytown and my boys enjoyed them as well. I also loved the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton. Oh, and have you come across The Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem ? The illustrations are fabulous and my boys loved them! The stories are based around a family of mice (dressed like people of course!) Living in Brambly Hedge and their adventures. I am going to have to go and look them out! Thanks for sharing! x

  9. I must agree with J, I am wondering what happened to the three that got away. I haven't read this book but it sounds delightful. My kids loved "I Can't Said the Ant" by Polly Cameron but we didn't have a book hospital and one day it met it's end :(

  10. What a great book!
    I have books from when I was a child as well. And I have my children's favorite books saved from their childhoods...
    I'll be over to borrow some jam later today :)

  11. How wonderful! This looks like a very fun/ interesting book. Lately we have been reading a lot out of a poetry book my mother had given us. Great post Jennifer. I'll be sure to look for this book, I think my daughter would enjoy it. :)

  12. Great book Jennifer - isn't it wonderful how, even as adults, that lovely rhyme and rhythm get us going and keep our attention!
    BTW, the word 'bap' is a Scottish term for bread roll or bun!
    Joy x

  13. Lovely post, this looks like such a nice book and lovely that you can share one of your favourite childhood reads with your own children. I loved Pippi Longstocking and all Roald Dhal and Enid Blyton books as a child and my Miss M really enjoys these too which makes me so happy!
    I love that term 'Book Hospital' by the way!
    Marianne x

  14. The illustrations remind me so much of books from my childhood, although I've never come across this one. I used to love The Brambly hedge books, which had such beautiful illustrations, I remember also a book call 'Gertrudes Child' that my Grandma bought us it was very dark and was about when the toys owned the children, sure scared me into looking after my my toys well.
    Clare xx

  15. Jennifer! I remember reading this to my children [lo those many years ago :)] I think I appreciate it more now after your review, however. I still have a very battered copy of Make Way for Ducklings. The story is set in Boston Public Garden and the members of my family were all born around the Boston area although we ended living most of our years in states other than MA. But our roots around Boston, the charming illustrations, and the fact that the story is fun to read aloud, make the book a treasure to me.
    Gracie xx

  16. It was always a favourite at preschool, I used to read it to the children. I love making my own jams also, we had crabapple jam on or toast this morning.

  17. Hi Jennifer,Thank you for this lovely story!!!I enjoyed it and loved the illustrations!!!!My favourite books as a child was most certainly Winnie The Pooh with Eeyore being my favourite!!!And still today I looooove donkeys!!!Must be because of Eeyore!!!!Have a great weekend!!!!

  18. Oh Jennifer I can see why you loved this book it is adorable will look it up thank you for sharing.....Daisy x
    My fave books when i learnt to read were "The lion the witch and the wardrobe" and
    "what Katy Did" I still love those books today!
    bestest to you
    daisy x

  19. This book looks so cool, I have never heard of it before. It's so nice that you kept it for your children to enjoy too, I have no books from my childhood to pass on (only from my teenage years). I used to love anything by Enid Blyton, my youngest memory of her books were the Amelia Jane books. I bought the new copies and read them to my children and they love them too. I remember all of the stories and it brings back memories of my mother reading them to me. Thanks for sharing this lovely book with us. :)

  20. I remember that book :) Homemade jam is the best, I make at least two batches every summer!

  21. What an awesome book!! My son would love it. I've never read it before, thanks so much for sharing! :) -- I've always wanted to make jam, but never have gotten the chance. You inspired me! I should try it out soon!


Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...