A grieving widow finds a new lease on life and unexpected material success after adopting a stray cat.
Annie and her husband, Mario, happily run a small diner in a small town. As the white couple grows older, the two continue to enjoy their low-key life—until Mario falls ill and dies. Annie’s subsequent sadness mutes her enthusiasm for cooking. The discovery of a kitten on her porch—the titular Thursday—revitalizes her and, eventually, results in the creation of an entirely new recipe. Through an unlikely series of events that includes a visit from a TV food-show host (recognizable as Guy Fieri but not named), Annie doesn’t just reopen the original diner, she brands her new dish Ugly Pasta, adds national franchises, builds a factory to employ her neighbors, and spends her profits on civic improvements. Polacco’s signature scratchy illustrations, rendered in pencil and marker, are full of energy but can’t overcome the overlong text and meandering plot. Ironically, the caveats she includes with her recipe for Ugly Pasta seem unnecessary—she “hesitated to put this in a children’s book,” but this doesn’t feel like a children’s book at all.
Written in honor of her own beloved cat and inspired by a real restaurant, Polacco’s paean to pasta won’t suit the tastes of the intended audience, who would be better served by a second helping of one of her earlier creations. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-9)