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.)

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution (Diane Stanley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution, written by Diane Stanley and illustrated by Jessie Hartland, a look at one of the innovators behind the farm-to-table movement.

As a child, Alice’s family had a garden in the warm months that provided them with fresh produce – fruits and veggies that tasted so good that Alice never forgot them. Spending a college semester in France ignited her passion for the French methods of food preparation, which involved using all-fresh ingredients. After college, Alice decided to open a restaurant in Berkeley, CA that served food in a revolutionary way: a different fixed menu every night that only used “the freshest local ingredients.” This concept ended up being a hit for Alice and her restaurant, Chez Panisse, and helped start a food movement that continues to this day.

A unique story that nicely explores current themes. As younger readers are being more educated on subjects like sustainability and responsible agriculture, books like this do a great job of explaining why these practices are so important in child-friendly terms. For instance, while other reasons for supporting small farms and fresh produce are given, the main one that this title drives home is a simple concept for kids to grasp: it tastes better. Stanley does well at integrating concepts with Waters’s life story, though some pages can drag a bit or veer off-topic (though JJ absolutely cackled at a superfluous account of Waters’s friend, director Werner Herzog, having to literally eat his own shoe at the restaurant after losing a bet). Hartland’s folksy gouache illustrations are perfect for the book’s theme and do an admirable job of making every meal and ingredient look delectable (with the exception of the aforementioned shoe). An afterward including an account of “Alice’s Edible Schoolyard” is not to be missed, and it’s a shame it is only covered visually in the main body of the book. Length was fine for an elementary storytime, and we enjoyed this one. Definitely worth a look, 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.)

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.)

Nom Nom Nom: A Yummy Book with Flaps (Jeffrey Burton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nom Nom Nom: A Yummy Book with Flaps, written by Jeffrey Burton and illustrated by Sarah Hwang, a delightfully silly board book for young foodies.

Who’s hungry? Little bookworms are introduced to eight hungry creatures, each more exotic than the last, and given a few suggestions of what that critter might be craving. Two or three of the options are relatively normal, while one is a crazy concoction. As soon as kiddos choose what to feed their new famished friend, they can lift the flap and help the animal NOM NOM NOM its new treat!

Tons of fun. Excellent interactive elements pair perfectly with simple yet engaging text and adorable illustrations, making the entire reading experience a treat. JJ loved being able to pick out what to “feed” each animal (she always choose the outlandish or gross option, of course), and had a great giggle with each NOM NOM NOM flap. This is a simple concept executed very well, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for very young readers, especially when shared with a caregiver. Perfect for a quick storytime, and we adored it. Overall, 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.)