Like Water for Chocolate for the picture-book set.
In this gentle tale, Annie is born blind but in time learns to navigate the world not through touch or memory, but smell. This talent serves her well in the kitchen, where her talent extends to creating meals that evoke fond memories and bring folks out of funks. When a melancholy young man named Julian comes to her for a cure for his lethargy, it becomes clear that the solution to his problem isn’t the cooking but the cook herself. And when Annie finds their conversations solve Julian’s problems, not her creations, she decides to make him something special. Though the tale is arguably an irresponsible and romanticized vision of blindness (a child might easily misunderstand why it is that Annie only opens her eyes at the very end), Almada’s magical realism tips the story into the realm of fable. Wordier than your average picture book, the translation is still light on its feet and enjoyable to the ear. Better still are Wimmer’s effervescent illustrations, which dance about the text, bringing it fully to life.
Though the abrupt ending will raise more questions than answers, this is a grand story wrapped up in delicious packaging. (Picture book. 4-8)