Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better

Crown. Jan. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593563229.
K-Gr 3–This picture book biography covers the story of Augustus (Gus) Jackson, the Black cook who innovated the modern recipe and production of ice cream in the 19th century. Jackson grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Washington, DC, as a youth to work at the White House. There he lived alongside enslaved servants, a fact that is plainly stated, but not significantly expanded upon. After rising to the role of cook, Jackson perfected the art of creating ice cream, a favorite dish among the presidents and their elite guests. Determined to bring this sumptuous dessert to the masses, Jackson opened his own ice cream shop. He developed a method of churning the sweet mixture using rock salt and ice, in order to preserve it longer for keeping and transportation. Though he is often considered the “inventor of ice cream,” the authors state in an informative afterword that versions of the treat date back to ancient China. Mallett’s painterly digital illustrations are lively and bright. They depict a smiling Jackson wearing a flamboyant hat, pushing his ice cream cart around town to the delight of a diverse group of people. The rhymes he calls out (“Ice Cream! Ice Cream! Quite a Treat! Come smile awhile and beat the heat!”) are written across rolls of parchment on pages that appear aged with slight discoloration. Back matter includes a recipe for homemade ice cream, as well as an afterword and bibliography.
VERDICT A strongly recommended book about Black ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

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