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How Amy Hest's Kids' Book “You Can Do It, Sam” Inspired a Child to Give

"You Can Do It, Sam" talks about apples, cinnamon, and tasty muffins.

"You Can Do It, Sam" talks about apples, cinnamon, and tasty muffins.

A Heartwarming Story of Giving

Early one winter morning, while it is still dark outside, Sam and his mama, Mrs. Bear, are baking cakes. Sam is impatient, but at last, the cakes are ready. Mama and Sam wrap the cakes in blue paper and put them into little red bags, one cake per bag. Then they go outside into the snow, get into their little truck, and drive to the house at the end of their street. Mrs. Bear tells Sam to take a cake up to the house. At first, Sam’s not sure about going alone, but Mama says, “You can do it, Sam.” And he does.

They deliver cakes to each house in the street, arriving home as the sun comes up. As they warm up with cocoa they eat the two remaining cakes, sharing crumbs with a few mice.

Apple and Cinnamon Muffin Recipe

Yield: Makes enough for 12 standard-sized muffins (using muffin tins) or 24 fairy cakes-sized ones.


  • 9 oz / 250g / 2 cups and 2 tablespoons flour (plain, wholemeal or gluten-free)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder (if using self-raising flour, reduce to 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 oz / 170 / ¾ cup (packed) peeled and chopped apples
  • Either: 3 oz / 85g / cup unrefined sugar OR 4 to 6 oz / 110 to 175g / ½ to ¾ cup dried dates (vary the amount depending on how sweet you’d like them)
  • 4 fl oz / 90ml / ½ cup sunflower or corn oil
  • Around 2 to 3 fl oz / 60 to 90 ml water, with some extra for the dates. (The quantity of water needed will vary depending on the flour used; wholemeal needs more than white flour.)


  1. If using dates, put them in a small pan, with enough water to cover them, and boil gently. (They will be ready when you need to use them, just like magic!)
  2. Prepare muffin tins. Preheat oven to 190 to 200°C / 375 to 400°F / 170°C Fan oven. If using gas: mark 5 – 6 on the middle rack, and 4 – 5 on top.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add sugar if using.
  4. In another bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Add the apple, the oil, and around 2 oz / 60ml of the water.
  5. If using dates, remove them from heat, and liquidize to form a smooth paste. If you don’t have a liquidizer or blender you could mash them with a fork, but this will not be so smooth. Add to wet ingredients.
  6. Pour all of the wet mixture into the dry. Stir until just combined and no dry flour is visible. The batter will be lumpy. It should easily drop off the spoon; if it doesn’t add more water.
  7. Spoon into tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for standard size and about 15 to 20 minutes for the smaller size. If the tops spring back when pressed they are ready.

The Gifts

My daughter, Lolo, was given this book for Christmas when she was four, and this simple story of the joy of giving caught her imagination. The following year, on Christmas Eve this Mama and her little bear got up while it was still dark (not difficult in Scotland in mid-December) and did some baking. We chose to make muffins, mainly because I make muffins so often I can do them in my sleep—or at least half-asleep as I was that morning. We also had two more helpers: Lolo’s six-year-old sister and the friend who had originally given Lolo the book and who was visiting for Christmas.

Like Sam, some of us were a little impatient for our muffins to be ready. Unlike Sam, our friends didn’t all conveniently live in the same street, and many of them lived in flats (apartments) where a bag of muffins left on a doorstep might have disappeared fast. So although the arrival of early morning muffins was a surprise to several five-year-olds that Christmas Eve, most of their parents had an inkling beforehand that they didn’t need to prepare breakfast that morning. In most cases, we rang the outside doorbell, Lolo trotted up the stairs of the building with her bag of muffins, and her friend’s parent was there to meet her at their apartment doorway. I lingered further down the stairs, to make sure all went well. One of my clearest memories of that morning is of Lolo handing over a bag of muffins to the father of two of her friends. He had a huge grin on his face and his two daughters were bouncing with excitement behind him.

Our bags were more varied than Sam’s because our local store didn’t have twelve in red, and I used plain greaseproof paper to wrap the muffins, still hot from the oven as we packed them. You could also use decorative waxed paper or put the cakes in little boxes.

Each of Sam’s bags had a label that said, “A Tasty Surprise,” so it will come as no surprise to you that ours did too. We put enough muffins in each bag for each family member of the households we delivered to.

And of course, when we got home again, we also warmed up with hot chocolate and muffins, but we didn’t share any crumbs with the mice.

With all the hullabaloo in the newspapers and glossy magazines about how to find the perfect present for Christmas, it’s easy to forget that often the simplest presents can give every bit as much joy as the big ones. You could say this is something my daughter learned that day, but I think she already knew it.


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 04, 2012:

Docmo, thanks so much for your kind comment. It was a joy to make the muffins, and to see so many people touched by it.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on August 04, 2012:

Thanks very much ishwaryaa. You are demonstrating what you say by sharing this! Thanks so much for that.

Mohan Kumar from UK on August 04, 2012:

What a wonderful life lesson for the little one. Even though it was inspired by the book, I think this Mamma bear needs a lot of kudos for executing such a charming, heartwarming gesture that captures the true spirit of Christmas! you're a gem. voted up of course.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on August 04, 2012:

I revisited your hub. I enjoyed reading this charming hub more than the first time. You proved that there is so much joy in giving and I totally agree with you.

Thanks for SHARING. Shared on Facebook and pinned

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 22, 2011:

Hi Pam,

Thanks very much for your kind comment. I hadn’t really thought about it helping Lolo to be more independent, but yes, I can see that’s the case. Thank you for the insight, much appreciated.

Pam Bennett on December 22, 2011:

What a lovely story - and practical too, with a recipe. What a lovely thing to encourage children to do to help children be more independent.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2011:

Hi ishwaryaa22,

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 20, 2011:

Hi MegStarr, thank you for your kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the hub.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on December 19, 2011:

Beautiful Hub! Vote up!

MegStarr from Texas on December 19, 2011:

I loved this Hub. Gave me something warm to read tonight while it stormed out. Hope you have a great and lovley Christmas.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi arusho, thanks for your comment. Hope you enjoy the muffins.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Savingkathy,

Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it and nice to hear that you and your daughter also enjoyed the book. Thanks.

arusho on December 19, 2011:

Great hub! I love muffins I will have to try this recipe!

Kathy Sima from Ontario, Canada on December 19, 2011:

I really enjoyed reading this hub. My daughter used to love it when I read that book to her - so lovely to hear that it inspired your daughter in this way!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Kelleyward, Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for sharing your story of taking cookies to the retirement village. And you’ve confirmed what I just wrote on my reply to chspublish - giving is great fun!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi chspublish,

Thanks for your kind comment. It is a great memory for us, and what I noticed is that we got as much out of it as the recipients. By giving we do receive.

kelleyward on December 19, 2011:

Thanks so much for the story. I'm trying to teach myself along with my 3 boys how to be more compassionate to others. We baked cookies and took them to the local retirement village. The boys and I had a great time! I think it's posts like these that are very important!

chspublish from Ireland on December 19, 2011:

It's so great that your child and you had this opportunity to give in such a warm, yet fundamentally delicious way and in the dark too! What a warm-hearted surprise. We need people like you around here, though I expect it's what I should do too.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

hi Veronica,

Thanks for your comment, and the congrats. I’m glad you enjoyed the hub.

And Merry Christmas to you too!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Barry, and thanks for your kind comment!

Veronica Roberts from Ohio, USA on December 19, 2011:

What a lovely hub and story! That's amazing that your daughter wanted to recreate the book, and give to others like you four did. =]

Congratulations on having the Hub of the Day, and Merry Christmas!

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on December 19, 2011:

I can only agree with all the comments above Very well done !

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi EyesStraightAhead,

Thank you for your comment, and glad to hear you feel as inspired by the book as we did!

Shell Vera from Connecticut, USA on December 19, 2011:

This is a wonderful way to bring a book into reality for a child! Thank you for sharing your recipe and how you took fiction and brought it to non-fiction. I can't wait to make some muffins with my three-year-old and have her bring them to friends' and family's doorsteps!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi rebeccamealey,

Thanks for the comment and congrats. Glad you enjoyed the hub. You are right about the muffins - they are yummy and healthy.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 19, 2011:

Very lovely story, pictures and a yummy sounding recipe. They also sound healthy.Congratulations!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Leahlefler, How wonderful to meet another “You Can Do It Sam,” fan. It’s not terribly well known here in the UK.

I also love your advent book idea - how great is that? (Have you written a hub about it?)

I’m sure your neighbours will love their cookies too. Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

RTalloni, Merry Christmas to you too! Thanks for your congrats, and glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you for your lovely comment about my daughter. She is a wondrous soul. (Not that I’m biased.)

Leah Lefler from Western New York on December 19, 2011:

We love that book! We always wrap 25 books and use them as an advent calendar each year (unwrapping one Christmas story book per day) - You Can Do It, Sam is one of our favorites. We just read it the other night! We're getting ready to take some cookie plates to the neighbors - I love the way that Sam and his mama bear go from house to house and secretly leave their little gift-cakes!

RTalloni on December 19, 2011:

You did it Melovy! Congrats on this Hub of the Day award! So enjoyed reading of your little's experience and the delight of the father at seeing her giving spirit. Her precious spirit will inspire others for a long time to come, I'm sure. Merry Christmas!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi pstrauble,

Thanks for you comment and the congrats. Good to hear your grandson enjoys the stories you read to him, it’s a great way to encourage reading. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Susan,

Thanks - for the comment and for the congratulations. It’s exciting for sure! I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 19, 2011:

Melovey: Sweet little story. My grandboy loves these stories I read to him. This one will be special for sure. Thank you for sharing this right here, right now...perfect..

Congratulations on hub of the day...

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 19, 2011:

Loved this story. I am sure you and your children will always cherish the memories of this as well.

Congrats on your hub as being chosen for hub of the day.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Laura,

Thanks for your comment.

What lovely memories for you of helping make tree decorations and helping in the kitchen. It’s those things that stay with us, yet so easy to think we need to do something ‘special’ for Christmas.

Becky Swift from Southampton on December 19, 2011:

Great hub and its nice to see, people are doing fun and active stuff for kids as Christmas is so commercial.

The most foundest Christmas memories for me was helping my mum make some of the tree decorations and hanging them up, also doing helping the with the veg and baking.

I think we as a nation are losing these old family treats due to the nature of modern day.

Laura X

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Eiddwen,

Thanks very much for your comment, and the vote up. Glad you enjoyed the hub too. I will indeed enjoy my day, thanks!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Linda,

Thanks for the congrats and glad you enjoyed it. (And thanks for all you do on Hub Hoppers too.)

Lolo is off school ill today and guess what - she’s baking cup cakes! She finds it relaxing, just need to make sure she washes her hands to keep the germs to herself!

Eiddwen from Wales on December 19, 2011:

One word needed here.

Beautiful and I vote up up and away.

Take care and enjoy your day.


Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on December 19, 2011:

Inspiring story! Congrats of Hub Of The Day Yvonne:)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on December 19, 2011:

Hi Earthy Mother, thanks for your comment and the vote up, and glad to hear your kids love the book too.

Nicole Forman from South East England on December 19, 2011:

My kids love this story too... voted up!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 07, 2011:

Hi Denise, Thanks for your comment. I’ve just read your hub about making the manger with your father, and it seems to me that the themes are similar. It’s these simple gifts that mean so much.

Denise Handlon from Michigan on November 06, 2011:

What a beautiful story about what it means to give-and what a fun adventure! Now that is what memories are made of; things such as this will not be forgotten by your children. :)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 02, 2011:

Debby, we’ve been having a mini-heatwave the last few days. 15 degrees, and I believe it’s getting warmer tomorrow. You can read a lot more about the British obsession with the weather on my hub “Not and Indian Summer, but a Great British Obsession.” There’s been some fun had there lately in the comments.

And I do indeed love the seaside.

I will have a look at your hubs soon too, though it’s getting time to chase Lolo and sister off to bed now so it will be tomorrow, I guess!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 02, 2011:

@Rai2722, Thanks for your comment.

@tirelesstraveler, It’s great to get in the holiday spirit a little early isn’t it? Glad you enjoyed the hub, thank you for your comment.

Debby Bruck on November 02, 2011:

I see you are thinking about going to the beach with your sandy profile photo. What is the autumn weather like there is Scotland? Must be getting cold.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 02, 2011:

Hi Simone,

I feel touched by your comment, so glad you found it heartwarming. It is a lovely book, and as you say has probably inspired others besides our family.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on November 02, 2011:

Hi Debby,

Thank you for your kind comments. I had fun doing the photo arrangements, and it helped that the book has such gorgeous illustrations. You are right about the lasting impression - my daughter is 12 now and has such fond memories of the book we still have it!

Judy Specht from California on November 02, 2011:

The holiday season is getting better and better because of the beautiful hubs I have been reading.

rai2722 on November 02, 2011:

The book is quite interesting. Thanks for spreading the info on it.

Debby Bruck on November 02, 2011:

Melovy ~ I also wanted to praise the crisp brightly colored photographs; and I agree with Simone, that going the extra lengths to make the book come alive leaves a lasting impression for a child. Blessings, Debby

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on November 02, 2011:

Melovy, this is one of the most heartwarming Christmas articles I've read in years. How lovely it is that you recreated the warm gesture demonstrated in the story... and what a sweet thing to do! What a great book- and how wonderful it is that your family has been inspired by it! I bet you're not the only ones :D

Debby Bruck on November 02, 2011:

Delectable. Great recipe!