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To Market to Market

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I cherish the unusual when it comes to reading a children’s book – especially when the author’s personal experiences led to the creation of the unique story. I also seek out titles that educate the youngest readers about different cultures and places. The Market Bowl ($16.95, Charlesbridge Publishing, Ages 5-8) meets all of the above and more.

Jim Averbeck spent four years in Cameroon – an African nation few Americans have visited – as a Peace Corps volunteer.  While there he ate many local dishes including Bitterleaf Stew. And so the story begins…

Yoyo is a young girl who goes to the market with her mother every day to sell her mama Cecile’s delicious bitterleaf stew. Mama teaches Yoyo exactly how to make the stew, taking no shortcuts and also tells her daughter that she must not ever reject a fair price for the stew in the market. Together they are successful selling mama’s secret recipe stew day after day.

One day Yoyo decides to make her own stew in her own way and try to sell it at the market when her mama was not there. Because the stew is sub par, a buyer grabs the bowl and offers Yoyo much less money for the stew than her mama was used to getting paid. Yoyo yanks the bowl back, and after that the family’s luck changes and Yoyo’s mama can no longer get a fair price for her food. When you read the book, you’ll see that the way Yoyo solves the problem is both brave and clever.

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The story has a folklore quality to it that I absolutely love. Along with the words are glorious, vibrant illustrations that bring the story to a whole new level. You’ll enjoythe way your children learn subtly about the Cameroon culture, too. In the front of the book are some vocabulary words and in the back is a reciepe for Bitterleaf Stew, the national dish of Cameroon.

There’s nothing else quite like The Market Bowl. It is a wonderful book for teaching children about cultures, honesty and quality work. And after reading this book, perhaps your child will even be willing to try tasting a new dish.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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The Luckiest Cat in the World!

You’ve heard the term, “lucky dog,” but what about “lucky cat?” Well, if you were Julia Child’s cat in Paris, you’d be the luckiest cat in the world. Nearly two decades after meeting Julia Child in 1993, author Susanna Reich wrote Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, ($16.99, Abrams Books, ages 3 and Up). Susanna was the floral designer for Mrs. Child’s 80th birthday celebration, and later, after reading her memoir decided she would someday write a children’s book about Child using the real dialogue from Julia Child’s memoirs.

Minette’s Feast is a charming true-life story of a cat, adopted by the Childs in Paris, who came into the family just as Julia Child herself was perfecting her cooking skills. What a lucky cat indeed! One day, Minette waits patiently for a nibble, while Julia prepares a spectacular cut of beef. We feel the cat’s unbearable anticipation as we read the story and cheer on the hungry cat who’d do anything to have a just one bite. Who wouldn’t want to taste anything prepared by Julia Child?!!!

What I love about this simple story is that it introduces young readers to the life of Julia Child, who was really the pioneer in the world of home cooking. The superb illustrations by Amy Bates are enchanting and so fitting for the story, and I promise you’ll love them! In the back of the book is a photo of Julia with a Forward about her life, Notes, Sources and a Glossary. Any child who loves cats, who loves to eat or cook, will love reading Minette’s Feast, and so will you.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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A Cat Who Can Bake and Kids Who Love to Eat Cake

Debbie Glade shares her thoughts on this imaginative chapter book.

Mrs. Noodlekugel ($14.99, Candlewick Press, ages 5 and up) is a charming chapter book about a boy and his sister, who discover a tiny house sandwiched between tall buildings behind their apartment. The janitor in their building tells them a nice old lady lives there, though they should not bother her at all. But kids being kids, naturally their curiosity leads them to explore where they are told not to go.

What they discover is a secret garden and a friendly old lady whose house smells like fresh-baked goodies. It is there that Mrs. Noodlekugel introduces the children to a cat who can bake and play the piano, among other things and a few other interesting creatures too. There’s a nice surprise for the children when they tell their parents they have been to the old lady’s house.

Here’s a book that in addition to being very imaginative, also reads like a quirky, yet wholesome adventure every young child would love to have. Who wouldn’t want to be treated to yummy fresh-baked goods while interacting with endearing animals with human characteristics?!  Along with the story are some cute cartoon-like black and white illustrations by Adam Stower. Author Daniel Pinkwater, who has written many popular books, generally bases his characters on people he knows in real life. This leaves us asking the question: Who is the Mrs. Noodlekugel in his life?!

If you read and love this book, you’ll be happy to know the adventures continue in 2013 with Mrs. Noodlekugel and Four Blind Mice.

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Accidentally Delicious

threescoopscvrIf you have a young child who always wants to help you out at home, especially with cooking, Three Scoops and a Fig ($15.95, Peachtree Publishers, ages 4-8) is a really cute book to read. Written by Sara Laux Akin, this book tells the story of young Sofia, who messes up every time she tries to help members of her family cook a special Italian dinner for them and Sofia’s grandparents. (I like the fact that comments are made to the child, using a few Italian words, which are defined in the back of the book, plus a recipe.) By pure accident, Sophia makes something wonderful happen with food that makes the family proud of her. The illustrations, by Susan Kathleen Hartung, are delightful, rounding out Three Scoops and a Fig.

debbieglade1Debbie Glade, today’s guest reviewer, is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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