I Take Back the Sponge Cake almost looks like a children’s book at first glance. But in reality, this book is a whimsical, lyrical adventure that takes you down a different path with every read. Choose-your-own-adventure books are a rare but surprising delight to come across, and this book is no exception. I especially like how abstract the poetry is; it matches the artwork perfectly. Rather than choosing a direction or making an ethical choice at the turn of each page, the reader is given the privilege of choosing a word to fill in the poems themselves. The words are homonyms (for example, weight and wait, or ring and wring), so although they are pronounced the same, the different meanings lend different import to each choice. The readers’ personal styles and lives have an effect on which word they choose, giving them a unique experience.
In the poem “Your Eyes are Closed but you aren’t Dreaming,” I felt like I was transported to a journey within the journey I was on while reading the book. It begins: “You are traveling slowly, / like a shipwreck still sailing.” These lines were very poignant and reminiscent of my own memories, which somewhat brought me down emotionally, but the last couple of lines brought me back up: “But the sun is blind and must touch everything: / always feeling its gold way forward towards the dark.” The description in the poetry is powerful, capable of transporting you to another place in your own life; however, I also found myself at times following fictional characters that climbed through the pages, just like a movie.
It is not until almost the back of the book that the choices become limitless. At the bottom of the page after a two-word poem titled “Door” is written: “Can you _______ in a ______?” Two lines down is the advice: “Begin at any time.” This ending really made me stop and think. There are four different endings with endless possibility, and if you get lost, there is even a map in the back of the book that outlines all of the different adventures. Although it is pretty difficult to get lost in such an organized and well thought-out book, it was interesting to see the many lines readers I will never meet will follow.
Like the poetry, the artwork is very unique. It is difficult to describe and merits checking out. The best part of the art is its ambiguity; not every piece is easily defined. The reader’s imagination really takes the lead and interprets Erdrich’s artwork in collaboration with the written words of Nelson. Each piece follows the same color scheme and is done in ink and watercolors. This book was a delight; not just about reading or viewing, I Take Back the Sponge Cake is an experience unparalleled.