Tag: food

Review: The Potato King by Christoph Niemann

Potato King by Christoph Niemann

The Potato King by Christoph Niemann (InfoSoup)

A Prussian king named Fritz loved the idea of the potato. It was easy to grow and healthy too and could just solve the hunger problems in his country. So he went to a nearby village and told them about the potato and its benefits and planted some potatoes for them. But people don’t like to be told what to eat, and the village rejected the potato entirely. Then King Fritz had an idea. He ordered his army to go to the village and guard the potato field, telling them to be very lax about it. Suddenly, the people were very interested in a food that they were being stopped from eating and that was valuable enough to guard with soldiers. They snuck into the field and stole the potatoes, planting them in their own gardens. It was a clever use of reverse psychology to create a crop that would end up being a staple of the area.

Translated from the original German, this picture book is told very simply. The book ends with a brief history of the potato and how it came to Europe from South America. It also admits that this tale may be a myth, but that’s part of what makes it all the more fun to tell. Niemann manages to take a moment in history and turn it into a rollicking tale that young children will enjoy immensely and will relate to immediately.

The illustrations in the book are done entirely in potato prints of different colors combined with actual potatoes too. The prints work particularly well when used to create larger scenes of hills of grass and crowds of soldiers. Somehow the crude images have their own personality too, particularly the king himself whose open mouth and bright red color mark his as unique right from the start.

Nominated for a German Youth Literature Prize, this picture book has a wonderful organic charm all its own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Gingerbread for Liberty by Mara Rockliff

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

German-born Christopher Ludwick had come to the Colonies as a young man looking for the opportunity to create his own bakery.  He did just that, creating gorgeous gingerbread for his town.  When the Revolutionary War began, he was eager to defend his America in any way he could, so he headed off to join General George Washington.  When he got there, the soldiers were hungry and complaining about the quality of food they were getting.  Ludwick jumped into action, feeing the armies bread from his ovens.  But the dangers weren’t done yet.  The King of England pulled together armies from other countries and sent them into battle.  The soldiers came from Germany and Ludwick offered to see if he could convince them not to fight.  Once again it was food and the promise of having enough to eat that convinced the soldiers to lay down their arms.  Many battles later, the war was won, but Ludwick and General Washington had one final mammoth baking task ahead of them.

Rockliff keeps the tone of this book quite lighthearted even as Ludwick finds himself taking grave risks with his life.  The writing is jolly and merry throughout.  The tone suits this baker whose optimism shines on the page and whose patriotism seemed to know no limits.  His accomplishments exceed what is shown in this picture book.  Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book to learn more about this amazing patriot and what he did for children and education as well as liberty.

Kirsch’s illustrations are a gingery delight.  Done in the forms of elaborate gingerbread cookies, the characters are shown as flat brown cookies with plenty of icing.  From the brown outlines to the white lines of icing, there is no mistaking what they are meant to be.  They too add a sweet and optimistic feel to this jolly picture book.

An unsung hero of the Revolutionary War and beyond, this picture book celebrates the impact that one man can have in making history.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins

a fine dessert

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Released January 27, 2015.

Follow one recipe through the centuries in this exceptional picture book!  Starting over 300 years ago in England, the book starts with a mother and daughter out picking blackberries.  Once home, the mother skims cream from the milk from their cow and whips it with a bundle of twigs for 15 minutes until she has whipped cream.  That is combined with squashed and strained blackberries mixed with sugar to create blackberry fool.  The fool then needs to be cooled, so they head to the hillside to chill it with sheets of winter ice that they store there.  Then the family enjoys it and the little girl licks the bowl clean.  As readers turn to the next family in Charleston, South Carolina about 200 years ago, they will notice so many changes just not in the recipe itself.  The method of refrigeration changes, the method of whisking the cream and the time it takes, the way they get the ingredients, and the family setting.  Next comes even more changes as the setting turns to a century ago in Boston and then the final family, a modern San Diego father and son.  Each family brings updates to the methods but enjoys the delicious dessert exactly the same way, with gusto!

Jenkins has an author’s note at the end of the book that further explains and points out the changes from one century to the next in the way food is procured and prepared.  Even the use of actual recipes only appears in the final family.  Written in a jolly way, this picture book uses repetition and patterns to make sure that children will see the differences in the way the food is prepared as the time passes.  It is a fascinating look at how food preparation has progressed but also in how very much has stayed the same.

Blackall’s illustrations are playful and clever.  She too uses repetition in her illustrations, showing the joy of licking the whisk or spatula and the final head dive into the bowl after the meal is complete.  There is a simplicity to her art as well, allowing the settings she conveys on the page to speak clearly.  One knows even without the words that you are in a different time and place thanks just to the illustrations.

A joy to read and share, this book has all the delight of a great dessert but is also packed full of historical information and detail.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

Review: Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff

chik chak shabbat

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

Every Saturday, the residents of one apartment building spend the day smelling marvelous smells drifting down from the 5th floor.  And every Saturday evening, everyone gathers on the 5th floor for Goldie’s cholent, a traditional Jewish stew.  But then one Saturday, there was no wonderful smell and when little Lali Omar went up the stairs, she found that Goldie was too sick to get the cholent cooking and it was too late to start the slow-cooking stew.  All is not lost though, as the neighbors look through their own pantries and refrigerators and create a Saturday meal that is not cholent but has many of the same ingredients incorporated into foods from their own personal heritages.  There is Korean barley tea, tomato pizza, potato curry, and beans and rice. 

Rockliff’s Shabbat tale is an amazingly diverse story.  While it follows Jewish traditions in the beginning, including Goldie sharing memories as a little girl of Shabbat with her extended family, the magic comes when Goldie gets ill.  Not only does the reader quickly realize how important this shared meal and time is for the entire building, but suddenly the heritage of each person is shown through their food.  It’s a clever way to show community and diversity in a single situation.

Brooker’s illustrations combine cut paper art with rich thick paint.  The result is the same winning combination of dishes served at the community Shabbat table.  The different textures and colors come together to be something more than their individual parts, creating a dynamic world.

Celebrating community, this book shows how diverse people can come together in friendship and harmony to save the day.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons by Alice B. McGinty

rabbi benjamins buttons

Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons by Alice B. McGinty, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

In the fall, the congregation gave Rabbi Benjamin a vest in honor of the new year.  It was yellow with four bright silver buttons down the front and it was a perfect fit.  Rabbi Benjamin wore his vest to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, which also involved a lot of food.  Each family offered their own special food for the holiday, and Rabbi Benjamin’s vest was a lot tighter by the end.  During Sukkot, Rabbi visited each of the families and again had lots of food and his vest grew even tighter.  Until on the last day of Sukkot, one of the silver buttons popped right off his vest.  Chanukah came and Rabbi Benjamin ate lots of latke, and he lost a second silver button.  Spring came along with Passover, and the rabbi lost the last two buttons that had tried to stretch across his growing belly.  He was very upset about how he had ruined his special vest.  So he changed a few things.  He got out and moved more along with his congregation.  And when he tried on the vest for Rosh Hashanah, it was far too big to wear.  But don’t worry, Rabbi Benjamin had a loving congregation ready to help him again.

This book has a wonderful radiance about it.  The heart of the book is really the love felt between the congregation and Rabbi Benjamin.  He is unfailingly kind and giving as are they, perhaps a bit too giving when it comes to the food!  At the same time, the story is a smart and very enjoyable way for readers to learn about the various Jewish holidays throughout the year and the traditions associated with them.  The book has an index of the holidays at the end, including recipes for each holiday.  There is also a glossary of Jewish words.

Reinhardt’s illustrations also capture the loving community on the page.  Rabbi Benjamin almost glows on each page, not only due to his shining yellow vest but also with his popping and vibrant personality.  The diverse ethnicities of the congregation is also appreciated.

A cheery look at Jewish holidays and the bounty of friendship and community, this book will be appreciated by people of all faiths.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

alice waters and the trip to delicious

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Hayelin Choi

A follow-up to Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, Martin continues to focus on food creators in this new book about Alice Waters.  It follows Waters from her studies in France where she learned about food.  When she returned home, she wanted to share her food finds with her friends but her home was too small to accommodate all of them.  So she created a new kind of restaurant that was like eating in someone’s home, Chez: Panisse.  The book follows Waters on her quest to find fresh, locally-grown foods and produce.  It finishes with her focus on children learning to grow their own foods in schoolyards across the country.  This is a picture book biography that will inspire young readers to grow, eat, and discover their own trip to delicious.

Martin’s text reads as verse on the page, the stanzas unrhymed but spare and filled with moments in Waters’ life that are worth lingering over.  Martin explains in simple terms what the goals of Waters are, but she also manages to inspire and let the ideas soar upwards on the page.  She invites young readers to dream their own dreams, offering them a book about how one person accomplished theirs. 

Choi’s art has a great feel to it with a mix of bright colors and a strong organic feel that is entirely appropriate to Waters.  Throughout the illustrations, readers will see how important people are to Waters’ accomplishments from her friends to her team at the restaurants to the children who plant their school gardens. 

A dynamic and delicious look at the life of Alice Waters, filled with all of the mouth-watering moments of her life.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from ARC received from Readers to Eaters.

Review: Relish by Lucy Knisley


Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Released April 2, 2013.

This memoir in graphic novel form details Lucy Knisley’s relationship and ongoing love affair with food throughout her childhood and young adulthood.  With each chapter in the book showing an episode in her life that impacted how she related to food, Knisley has penned a book that is not at all about weight watching, but instead the story of how a gourmet is born.  The daughter of a chef, Knisley grew up helping out at farm stalls and working at her mother’s catering jobs.  She also details how her mother both introduced her to the wonders of food in both taste and the way it can connect people.  Each chapter ends with a recipe, showing readers how to create their own sushi or navigate selecting a great cheese.

Knisley’s style is reminiscent of  that of Raina Telgemeier with characters who are drawn with an innate humor but also a profound affection.  Knisley writes of her relationship with food in particular, but the book is also a love letter to her mother and the impact she had on Knisley throughout her life.  I am profoundly grateful for a book about a girl’s relationship with food that does not contain even a moment of weight concern or dieting.  Instead it is about finding or creating great food in one’s life.

Funny and delicious, this book is sure to whet the appetite for more books by Knisley.  Get it into the hands of teens who enjoyed the books by Telgemeier.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Macmillan Children’s Publishing.