FRENCH TOAST SUNDAYS

Food is an intergenerational bond, and this sensitive portrayal gets it just right.

Loving memories help a young girl mourn the death of her grandmother.

Mina and her grandmother have always shared a special time on Sunday mornings. Together they prepare French toast using a recipe that consists of “a pinch of this. Not quite right. A shake of that. Mmm, just right.” With the delicious food on her plate, Mina climbs a tree to eat, and Grandma sits at a table nearby. Then, one Sunday, everything is different as family and friends gather. There’s boiled eggs to eat and a candle burning on the windowsill. Unstated in the text, the white Jewish family is sitting shiva—observing a seven-day period of mourning. Mina does not want to join them; she climbs up her tree. More food comes and more memories are shared as Mina inches down the tree and watches through the window. Overhearing the relatives talk about Grandma’s cooking moves Mina to action. It seems that Grandma’s one culinary skill was in preparing French toast, and only Mina knows how to make it. Softly textured illustrations help to convey the tender mood of the story. For many families, the death of a grandparent is observed with both religious and secular customs, and all should find a note of reassurance and comfort here.

Food is an intergenerational bond, and this sensitive portrayal gets it just right. (note to families) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68115-529-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

THANKFUL

Low-key and gentle; a book to be thankful for.

Spinelli lists many things for which people are thankful.

The pictures tell a pleasing counterpoint to this deceptively simple rhyme. It begins “The waitress is thankful for comfortable shoes. / The local reporter, for interesting news.” The pictures show a little girl playing waitress to her brother, who playacts the reporter. The news gets interesting when the girl trips over the (omnipresent) cat. As the poem continues, the Caucasian children and their parents embody all the different roles and occupations it mentions. The poet is thankful for rhyme and the artist, for light and color, although the girl dancer is not particularly pleased with her brother’s painterly rendition of her visual art. The cozy hotel for the traveler is a tent for the siblings in the backyard, and the grateful chef is their father in the kitchen. Even the pastor (the only character mentioned who is not a family member) is grateful, as he is presented with a posy from the girl, for “God’s loving word.” The line is squiggly and energetic, with pastel color and figures that float over white space or have whole rooms or gardens to roam in. Both children, grateful for morning stories, appear in a double-page spread surrounded by books and stuffed toys as their mother reads to them—an image that begs to be a poster.

Low-key and gentle; a book to be thankful for. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-310-00088-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

NAMASTE IS A GREETING

Visually appealing but doesn’t capture the spirit of namaste.

What does it mean to say namaste?

This picture book attempts to explain this traditional, formal greeting used in South and Southeast Asia to welcome people and bid them farewell—in particular, as a way to show respect to elders. A child with dark hair, dark eyes, deep-brown skin, and a bindi on their forehead goes to a market with their caregiver and buys a potted plant to give their lonely, lighter-skinned neighbor. Vibrant, textured illustrations depict a blossoming friendship between the little one and the neighbor, while a series of statements describe what namaste means to the child. However, the disjointed text makes the concept difficult for young readers to grasp. Some statements describe namaste in its most literal sense (“Namaste is ‘I bow to you.’ " “Namaste is joining your palms together”), while others are more nebulous (“A yoga pose. A practice.” “Namaste calms your heart when things aren’t going right”). The lack of backmatter deprives readers of the cultural context and significance of this greeting as well as knowledge of the countries and cultures where it is used. Moreover, the book doesn’t convey the deep respect that this greeting communicates. The absence of culturally specific details and the framing of namaste as a concept that could apply to almost any situation ultimately obscure its meaning and use. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Visually appealing but doesn’t capture the spirit of namaste. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1783-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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