Book review: Leila in Saffron, by Rukhsanna Guidroz, illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova

Guidroz, Rukhsanna. Leila in Saffron. Illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova. Salaam Reads, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534425644. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q9

Young Leila is off to Naani’s home for their weekly family dinner. Naani greets Leila with a compliment about the saffron beads on her dress, but Leila is not sure if she likes what she sees when she looks in the mirror. Leila uses the visit to look for things she likes about herself, and finds them in her family, in the beautifully decorated Pakistani home, the meal she helps to prepare, and in the special love a grandma has for her granddaughter.  The color visuals in the book are very eye catching and immerse the reader in Pakistani culture. A glossary at the back of the book gives both the pronunciation and definition of unfamiliar words used in the story.

Verdict: A beautiful multicultural book for both the library and the classroom with an important message of self-worth that all can benefit from.

November 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Little Taco Truck, by Tanya Valentine, illustrated by Jorge Martin

Valentine, Tanya. Little Taco Truck. Illus. by Jorge Martin. Schwartz & Wade, 2019. $16.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5247-6585-9. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

Little Taco Truck has a profitable and happy life selling his food to workers building high rises in the city until he is slowly crowded out by other trucks selling a variety of ethnic food. Miss Falafel came first, followed by Jumbo Gumbo and then Annie’s Arepas. With no place left for him, Little Taco Truck plans to arrive in the night and claim his spot. The other trucks apologize for crowding him out and even make room for Oodles of Noodles the next day. The glossary defines six types of food on the trucks.

Verdict: The theme of accepting different ethnic groups is gloriously illustrated by bright digital colors that demonstrate the trucks’ different personalities, and the representation of the workers as different animal species gives a quirky touch to the plot.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Jamal’s Journey, by Michael Foreman

Foreman, Michael. Jamal’s Journey. Anderson Press, 2017. Unpaged. ISBN 9781512439496. Ages 4-9. P7Q7

Jamal is a little camel, who has to walk, walk, walk everywhere. He envies his mama and baba who have long legs, and the falcons who get carried everywhere unless they are flying. It’s hard for a little camel to keep up. Then a dust storm comes, and Jamal gets separated from his family. He’s afraid and tries to find help from the desert animals. Finally, a falcon comes and leads him toward the great city where he finds his family again. Jamal gains some confidence through this experience, and realizes that the world is more than just sand. I enjoyed the soft, warm illustrations, especially the ones that contrast the desert, the big city, and the marketplace. I especially enjoyed this book because it made me think about my time in Saudi Arabia and the many dust storms I experienced there.

VERDICT: This is a pleasant story with a nice ending. It will work well as a read aloud, and could be used when talking about other areas of the world or about country vs. city life.

February 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: No Kimchi for Me!, by Aram Kim

Kim, Aram. No Kimchi for Me! Holiday House, 2017. Unpaged. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437627. Ages 3-7. P7Q8

I enjoyed reading this book about Yoomi, who hates kimchi (a fermented vegetable condiment very common in Korea). Her brothers tease her about it and call her a baby, so she tries to make herself eat the fiery side dish by hiding it on other foods like chocolate chip cookies and pizza. But to no avail- she really hates it! But then Grandma and Yoomi try another idea- they make a kimchi pancake, and amazingly, she likes it! I liked the idea that having Yoomi participate in making the dish helps her to like it. I lived in South Korea for a year, and had a hard time with kimchi at first too- and also learned to like it. The endpapers are bright and fun- at the beginning there are vegetables that commonly go into kimchi, and at the back various styles of kimchi. There is also a recipe for kimchi pancakes for kids who want to try something new.

VERDICT: I think that many children will identify with Yoomi in hating a food that others expect her to like- it brought back memories of trying to make myself eat Lutefisk (a Norwegian Christmas tradition in my family).

February 2018 review by Carol Schramm.