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Ancona explores the universal activity of eating, but the accomplished master of the photo essay doesn't add enough spice to this pot.
Starting with an image of a nursing baby (but excluding a bottle-fed infant), photos of children and adults from different cultures are enclosed in circles and rectangles on white backgrounds. The clear photos highlight meal times, utensils, types of food and special celebrations, such as Hanukkah with its potato pancakes and St. Lucia's Day with its saffron buns. Some double-page spreads feature large photos of people enjoying a meal with a corresponding detail of the foods. The most attractive one shows Nigerians dippingfufu, ground cassava root, into various meats and vegetables. Mealtime prayer is shown in photos of an interracial family saying grace and a Tibetan family praying before digging into their meat dumplings,momos. AMuslim gathering and a Polynesian luau depict examples of sharing and hospitality. The simple, straightforward text largely describes the photos, but there is no mention of how people get their food or the difficulty of getting enough to eat for some children and families. A few recipes would complement the attractive end papers with their checkerboard of food images.
A solid repast for the primary-school curriculum but not zesty enough for many tastes. (author's note)(Informational picture book. 5-8)
Posted August 19, 2011
I won this book from a NY Journal of Books giveaway. This brief little book with a beautiful cover and very expressive photographs of actual people, is an impressive analysis of what food means to all of us. At first, it seems simple enough, comprised of beautiful pictures of food with varied peoples enjoying its consumption, but it grows into the expression of a much deeper concept. The initial pages have few words but the few words grow into paragraphs when necessary. It is a book that can be shared by all ages. It would be fine if it was read by a child able to read by his/herself and it would be just as wonderful an experience if it were to be read to a child who cannot read the book alone. The key thing is the fact that it really illuminates the value of a shared meal. Food is not just a means to an end, satisfying a bodily need. It is a psychological and emotional event as well. Mealtime should be a time of family, a time of talking about the events of the day, a time to grow closer. We have lost a lot of this ability today, since families have two working parents who make little effort to sit down together. If nothing else, this book points out the need to return to the days of shared meals. The book itself does another good job. The photographs displayed on the pages are sharp. Their meaning is imparted with clarity, and the picture is worth 1000 words as the saying goes. I gave this book five stars. It accomplished its purpose and it did it well. It includes almost every culture in its discussion of mealtime. Eating is a fundamental joy in Jewish households, and as a Jew, I can appreciate the value of shared meals since all of our holidays revolve around a wonderful meal with traditional foods and happy conversation.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.