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.)

Jazz for Lunch! (Jarrett Dapier)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jazz for Lunch!, written by Jarrett Dapier and illustrated by Eugenia Mello, a toe-tapping, finger-snapping musical, culinary romp.

A young boy has a lunch date with his Aunt Nina, and she’s taking him to the hottest and tastiest jazz club to enjoy some music and eats. Unfortunately, as great as the music sounds, the crowd forces Nina and her nephew to the back – they can’t see the band, the dancers step on their toes, service is taking forever, and its far too hot. Cutting out early, Aunt Nina promises a surprise for the next day: a jazz-inspired, home-cooked lunch. Nephew and aunt prep and cook together, listening to vinyls of the jazz greats and naming their culinary creations after them. And once lunch is ready, one more surprise is on the way – one that will lift this musical meal to a new level.

Electric. First, Dapier’s phenomenal rhythmic text is an absolute joy to read aloud, and metered perfectly to emulate the syncopation and tempo of an upbeat jazz tune. Mello’s illustrations are bright, colorful, and full of ecstatic life, perfectly melding musical and food imagery to fit the theme; they also feature a fantastic diversity of skintones, genders, hair textures, and body types (have I mentioned that I LOVE seeing kidlit with diverse body types?). Endpapers give twenty mini-biographies of the jazz legends mentioned within the story, a wonderful touch and well-integrated. The length is perfect for a story time, and JJ and I had a blast reading it. This is a entertaining title that is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to a new art form – jazz, cooking, or both! Highly recommended, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Kids Can Cook: Fun and Yummy Recipes for Budding Chefs (Esther Coombs)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kids Can Cook: Fun and Yummy Recipes for Budding Chefs, illustrated by Esther Coombs, a delightful starter cookbook for the culinarily-inclined.

Cooking: it’s not just for grown-ups! After an introductory section that covers the do’s and don’t’s of kitchen safety, tools of the trade, and some basic techniques like using a box grater and beating an egg, young chefs can explore three types of recipes. A “Breakfast, snacks & breads” section features yummy morning treats like fruit smoothies and sausage rolls, plus grain-based creations like flatbread and quesadillas. “Main meals & sauces” dishes out pizza, sliders, fish cakes, and curry; “Sweet treats” serves up strawberry sundaes and gingerbread people. With 33 kid-favorite recipes in total, young chefs can start their craft with dishes that are easy to make and fun to eat.

Wonderful! This introductory cookbook welcomes kids into the world of culinary creation by breaking down a collection of simple recipes into easy-to-follow steps. Colorful, retro illustrations walk kids through the steps of each recipe, from ingredients to finished process, and several recipes include tips and substitution ideas, including vegetarian variations for dishes like skewers (kebabs) and curry. The kitchen safety and basic skills covered in the intro are welcome, though an explanation of kitchen measurements would have been a welcome addition. Otherwise, we loved this one: it was fun to look over together, and fun to use for Chef JJ. Overall, a great starter cookbook for beginner chefs of any age, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Foodie Flamingo (Vanessa Howl)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Foodie Flamingo, written by Vanessa Howl and illustrated by Pablo Pino, a delightful and insightful tale of culinary curiosity.

Frankie the flamingo meets with her friends (Frederick, Felicia, and Steve) every Friday at their favorite flamingo restaurant. And every Friday, each friend orders the same shrimp-based dish. Like her fellow flamingos, Frankie loves the taste of shrimp, and the vibrant pink color her feathers get from eating it. However, after discovering the term “foodie”, Frankie begins to wonder if there are other foods that she might like as much – or even better – than shrimp. When her friends are skeptical and their restaurant flatly refuses to serve anything other than, Frankie decides to explore her culinary options at home. She teaches herself to cook different ingredients in unique ways, and turns herself a rainbow of different colors in the process. She finds she’s happy being a foodie flamingo – but will her friends feel the same?

Loved this! The Baby Bookworm family are big food-lovers, and we absolutely agreed with Frankie’s revelation: that food is not only to be consumed, but to be explored and enjoyed. The clever twist of this being outwardly displayed by Frankie’s (and later, other flamingos) changing colors also gives a great visual as to how food diversity – like any diversity – makes life all the more colorful and vibrant. This also serves well to encourage readers who are picky eaters: the story is careful to note that Frankie does not enjoy ALL of her culinary experiences, but she keeps trying new things nonetheless. There’s also a short yet sweet “How To Be A Foodie” page, which gives readers tips on experimenting with and savoring their meals. The jovial cartoon art is cheerful, colorful, gives each character style, and makes each dish look scrumptious. The length is perfect for storytime, and JJ loved it! A wonderful little title to encourage the foodie in all of us, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Julia, Child (Kyo Maclear)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Julia, Child, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad, an ode to cooking and childhood.

From the first time young Julia tastes sole meunière, she is enchanted by cooking and cuisine. She and her friend Simca spend days together, at the market shopping for ingredients, learning the craft of creating fine food, testing new recipes together in the kitchen. Their pursuits bring them such joy that when they notice the dreary and uninspired adults around them, they wonder if their culinary creations can help. Gathering a diverse group of busy, serious people for a meal, Julia and Simca serve them a plentiful gourmet table that contains all the delights and joys of childhood. Their guests are exuberant at first, yet quickly turn selfish, hoarding the food from the others when they fear it will run out. Frustrated and disappointed, Julia and Simca return to their comfort zone, the kitchen, to figure out how to tweak their recipe and achieve just the right flavor of happiness.

Deliciously inventive. Obviously, this reimagining of the friendship between Julia Child and Simone Beck isn’t historical; the women met and discovered a shared love of French cuisine in adulthood. But this is no matter: Julia and Simca are sweet nods to their real-life adult counterparts in a story that is not about them, but about finding a passion and using it to create, and to inspire others. And while it felt like parts of the metaphor flew over my head – particularly the sequence in which the adults aggressively reserve the food – the overarching message is one of appreciating the little things, especially things like a meal made with love, or the bond between two best friends. Morstad’s illustrations are as lovely as ever, using soft colors and fine details to create unique, engaging characters and food that looks good enough to eat. The length is perfect, and JJ enjoyed this one a lot. A scrumptious read, especially for fans of the real life chef, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!