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Lila Caffery’s Book Review

Finding the Birthday Cake
By Elizabeth Wagele

As a therapist I have spent a lot of time helping adults remove the bad messages they learned in childhood. For some it seems almost embarrassing to claim any good points or talents. Ask an adult to name their five best qualities and there may be a long pause. High self-esteem is so much easier to learn in childhood. Elizabeth’s “Finding the Birthday Cake” is a funny little story that shows how natural it can be for children to learn it early without even knowing there is any other way. We recognize it instinctively in the face of every newborn baby but may have trouble remembering it in the midst of the first temper tantrum!

Cartoon of lamb and bird that represent enneagram types with dialog from the book Finding the Birthday Cake

Based on the nine personality types of the Enneagram, an ancient, psycho-spiritual personality inventory, this is a simple tale told with the age-old help of whimsical little animals to represent the nine types. Only a name such as “Walter One” makes the initial type connection between this sweet little worrywart bird and the child who feels overly responsible to get everything just right. As the story unfolds, each type tries in his own unique way to be helpful in solving the problem of “ Finding the Birthday Cake”. I especially like the Ninosaur who comes down off the wallpaper to solve the mystery.

Page from Finding the Birthday Cake with cartoon of fish jumping out of bowl and text - yes she is pwerful amy eight can do figure 8s in and out of her fishbowl for hours at a time

Another helpful and funny little animal represents each type. This delightful story is really about how to encourage your child to love and accept himself and to accept and love the differences and special talents in his friends and classmates – a lesson we all need to remember. Working together they manage to not only find the cake but to have a swell party to boot.

Rabbit representing enneagram type five sitting under tree with text from book Finding the Birthday Cake
In the back of the book the nine types are defined in more detail and with the help of mothers and teachers, children can easily pick out their own type by scoring themselves on each scale. Then they can go back and find themselves in the story. Double fun for the kids and a good lesson for the parents to both understand their children’s personalities and to accept and love them for their unique gifts, the starting place for all self-esteem. As adults we can’t easily see how valuable and special we are if we didn’t learn it at our mother’s knee. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure! How wonderful to have a little book to point out our specialness with the help of the cartoons that have already endeared so many readers to Wagele’s light hearted but honest appraisals of our unique if sometimes exasperating selves. We are all as loveable as the funny little creatures in this book about how we started out expressing our individuality when we were all very, very young and very, very cute.

Lila Caffery, MA, CCHT
San Francisco

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