Novelist Saeed makes her picture-book debut with this delicious tale about a boy and his beloved daal.
When Bilal’s father begins to make the South Asian legume stew, Bilal and his friends Morgan and Elias are eager to help, but Abu tells them, “This dish takes patience.…This dish takes time.” The children choose to make chana daal (with split chickpeas) and line up the spices: turmeric, chili, cumin. But when Morgan and Elias wonder aloud why the daal “looks” and “smells” funny, Bilal becomes concerned that his friends won’t like his favorite food at all. The daal simmers all day—as Bilal, Morgan, and Elias play hopscotch, swim, and hike and other friends join them—and once the sun begins to set, Bilal’s father calls them all home. They break naan around the table and share the steamy, soupy, garlicky, salty, sweet, creamy daal. “Bilal, you were right—daal tastes great!” they say. The tale centers on a situation familiar to many children of immigrants—the othering of the foods of their homes—and validates young readers’ cultural experiences. Saeed’s inclusion of a South Asian father engaged in domestic work is radical and welcome, and Syed’s inviting, bold, cartoonlike illustrations depict brown-skinned Bilal surrounded by children of a variety of skin tones (Morgan presents white and Elias presents black).
A quietly radical, eminently delightful book. (author’s note, recipe) (Picture book. 4-8)