Anni Dreams of Biryani (Namita Moolani Mehra)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Anni Dreams of Biryani, written by Namita Moolani Mehra and illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat, a sweet story of tasty food and determination.

Anni lives with her ma and grandma in an apartment in the “Little India” of an unnamed city, right across the way from the most delicious dish in town. At the Biryani Café, a taciturn man named Mr. Arif – though everyone calls him “Uncle” – makes a biryani that must be tasted to be believed. People come from all over the city and beyond to try his incredible recipe, and Anni and her family eat dinner there every Friday as a special treat. Inspired by Uncle and her love of the dish, Anni resolves to cook a biryani just as delicious. She plies Uncle for clues, asking a new question about the ingredients and preparation every Friday, using his gruff and grumpy answers to tweak her own recipe. Yet despite her efforts, and even successful attempts at biryani, she simply can’t make hers taste as good as Uncle’s. Is Uncle using a secret ingredient? Will he share it? Or will Anni never make her dreams of biryani come true?

A feast for the senses. Mehra weaves a lovely story of culinary exploration and curiosity that brims with a passion for making and tasting food. Combined with Prabhat’s rich and colorful illustrations, and reader’s mouths will be watering by the final page (and fear not, more information on biryani, including a recipe, is in the backmatter). Anni is the type of plucky and resolute character that is just delightful to follow in a story like this, and while Uncle’s abrupt and implacable manner is a little off-putting, and he probably owed Anni an apology by the end that was never extended, it can’t be denied that he is accurate to the type of chef who closely guards a special recipe meaningful to one’s culture and family. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really liked this one; she was eager to try biryani for herself afterwords. Overall, a delicious read, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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