The Upside-down Cake, A story about kindness and empathy for children of 5 to 8 years

The Upside Down Cake

Upside-down cake painted

My name is Mark. I went to a small village school when I was a boy of your age. There were only 50 children in the whole school. Classes were small. We had the infants’ class, the middle-class and the top-class.

My teacher was called Miss Tweedy. She was very kind. She  noticed that every child was different. Some were  shy and quiet and some were loud and confident and there were others in between. Miss Tweedy used to joke about herself and make us laugh when she made a mistake. Sometimes I thought she made mistakes on purpose just to make us feel better about ourselves when we messed something up.

One day she came to school with an upside-down cake to share with the class who were the ‘winners of the month’. Every month one class was the winner. I did notice that we seemed to take it in turns to be the winner. It was called the ‘good behaviour prize’, and every month a different class won it, and shared out the cake between them. Sometimes it was chocolate cake and sometimes lemon cake. I used to like the cherry cake so if our class won I would always ask if we could have cherry cake for our prize.

‘Now let’s see, Mark, we could have a cherry cake, but only if everyone agrees. We could have some suggestions first and then count how many hands go up for each cake.’

We always voted like that and sometimes I was lucky, but not always. I didn’t mind because I like chocolate cake and lemon cake too.

I was telling you about the upside-down cake wasn’t I? Well, my class won the best behaviour prize, but we forgot to vote for what kind of cake to have. Miss Tweedy just got on and made one anyway.

She asked the class if they had ever heard of upside-down cake. One of the girls put her hand up and said her grandma made it sometimes.

‘Ah,’ said Miss Tweedy, ‘then I must tell you about my silly mistake. I thought I might get away without letting you know about it, but as Sarah knows what upside-down cake should be like, I can’t pretend can I?’

Miss Tweedy took the lid off the tin and showed us the cake.


Cherry cake 2Upside-down cake painted

I jumped up and down and clapped my hands.  Cherries were gathered at the top of the cake, so many that there was hardly any yellow cake to be seen! Everyone giggled and shouted, they all liked cherry cake too.

‘Can you guess what happened?’ asked Miss Tweedy looking embarrassed, hanging her head and sucking her finger; I thought she was play acting but Sarah went up to Miss Tweedy and patted her arm.

‘It’s all right Miss Tweedy,’ she said,’ don’t worry, we all make mistakes. I’m sure we will want to eat it even if all the cherries sank to the bottom and you turned it upside down.’

‘Yes that’s right Miss,’ we all chimed in, ‘don’t worry Miss, we’ll eat it!’

Delighted, we all sat round and had a piece of upside-down cherry cake. I turned mine the right way up to make sure it tasted as good as it usually did.

Later on that day Timmy, one of the youngest in the class was writing some of his letters upside down. He was a shy, quiet boy and when Miss Tweedy showed him how to change them round he hung his head and sucked his finger and tears started to fall on his work.

‘Never mind Timmy, your letter is a bit like my upside-down cake isn’t it? It’s the right shape, it’s just upside down. All we have to do is turn it over, look. We all make mistakes sometimes. It’s how we learn isn’t it? We do it wrong until we learn to do it right!’

Timmy smiled and we all smiled, thinking about the taste of the delicious cherry cake and of how kind Miss Tweedy was.

Questions  Answers in blue

  • Does this story remind you of anything in your life?
  • What did Mark think of his teacher, Miss Tweedy?   He thought she was very kind
  • Why did one class get a cake each month?  They got it for behaving well – the best behaviour prize
  • What sort of cake did Mark like best?  Mark liked Cherry cake best
  • Why did Miss Tweedy turn her cake upside down? The cherries all sank to the bottom of the cake, so it looked prettier upside down. 
  • How did Miss Tweedy show that she was upset about her cherry cake? She hung her head and put her finger in her mouth.
  • What did Sarah do to stop MissTweedy feeling upset?  She patted her arm and told her not to worry…
  • When little Timmy wrote his letters upside down, how did he feel about it? He was upset as he had made a mistake.
  • What did Miss Tweedy say to make him feel better? She told him that we learn by making mistakes, and it’s OK to make mistakes.


The Old Boots – story about learning from your mistakes (for children 10-14 years)

He who refuses correction is his own worst enemy, but he who heeds reproof learns sense.  Proverbs 15 verse 32

The Old Boots

My name is Wang.  My family live in the north of China.  You must remember that China is a huge country.  The North is very cold in winter.  We have to wear plenty of clothes to prevent frostbite.  When we go out we must put on several layers of clothing and we always wear headgear to cover our ears and necks as well as the top of our heads.  We also wear gloves and big fur lined boots.  These clothes, especially the boots are expensive and they get handed down to other children as we grow out of them.  Kid’s feet grow so quickly they soon grow out of their boots.  We do have a clever way of using socks so that boots can stay with their owner for longer.  When we first get our boots we may wear three pairs of socks so that they fit.  Then we go down to two, then one pair.  Then sadly, we pass them on, or gladly, if we already have another pair of good boots waiting for us.  If we are lucky one pair of boots will last one child a whole winter, before they get passed on to the next wearer.

I remember one year when I was eleven years old I got a pair of boots from my neighbour who was twelve.  I was used to getting his boots and clothes when he grew out of them.  I looked at them.  They were much worn.  He must have had them from someone else first.  Usually his things were all right; they were not too worn out, but these boots were quite tattered.  I was cross.  I would be expected to wear these  old boots for the whole winter.  My mother told me that I must wear them carefully and look after them because she did not know where the next pair of boots would come from if I wore those ones out.  She certainly could not afford to buy me a new pair.  I hated those boots.  I decided I would wear them out as quickly as I could, then she would have to get me a better pair.

We used to walk to our village school every day.  There would be ice on the road and every child knew you should not slide on the ice as it would wear out your boots.  So I slid on the ice.  I slid and slid.  I showed off to the others.  Some of them tried too.  The older ones told us not to slide as our boots would wear out and we would get frostbite.  I knew an old neighbour who had frostbitten hands.  He had lost two fingers.  The other children stopped sliding but I carried on.

Wang wanted to wear out his boots on the ice

Wang wanted to wear out his boots on the ice

Finally I managed to wear a hole in my boots.  I felt triumphant.  Now my mother would have to get me another pair of boots.

I showed the hole in my boot to her.  She just looked at me.

“Well what do you want me to do about it?” she asked after a long wait.

“I want a better pair of boots,” I said, “I told you these ones were no good.”

“Do you think I don’t know what you have been doing to your boots?  Do you think your friends say nothing to their mothers, and their mothers say nothing to me?”

I looked down. “Why didn’t you tell me to stop sliding then?”

“I get tired of telling you to stop doing things when you know very well what will happen if you don’t.  You must take responsibility for your own actions when you know that something will go wrong if you don’t!”

My mother made me mend my boots with stinking fish glue and some old leather from a pair of worn-out boots.  The mend hurt my foot and gave me blisters.

After two weeks of watching me limp my mother took my boots and re-mended them herself, so that they didn’t hurt me any more.  I was always careful to look after my boots and clothes after that.  I made sure I handed them on in good condition to the next person.  I did learn from my mistakes.  My mother said it’s all right to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.

The Proverb is ‘He who refuses correction is his own worst enemy’…

  • In what way did Wang refuse correction?
  • What does it mean ‘to be your own worst enemy’?
  • Can you think of something you have done after you were told not to do it, and it caused you a problem?
  • Can you think of a time when you learned from your mistake?


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