Holy Mole: A Folktale from Mexico

Overview

When the Spanish viceroy comes for an unscheduled visit to the monastery, the cook goes into a frenzy. What will they feed this important ambassador to the king? Carlos, the orphan boy who works in the kitchen, tries to stay out of the way as lunch is hastily prepared, but his curiosity gets the best of him. His eagerness results in a moment of crisis, followed by what Brother Roberto can only assume is a miracle. This story, inspired by the Mexican folk tradition, explains the origins of mole, the popular ...

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Overview

When the Spanish viceroy comes for an unscheduled visit to the monastery, the cook goes into a frenzy. What will they feed this important ambassador to the king? Carlos, the orphan boy who works in the kitchen, tries to stay out of the way as lunch is hastily prepared, but his curiosity gets the best of him. His eagerness results in a moment of crisis, followed by what Brother Roberto can only assume is a miracle. This story, inspired by the Mexican folk tradition, explains the origins of mole, the popular national dish that combines chocolate with turkey, spices, and nuts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Legend has it that molé, one of the signature dishes of Mexican cuisine, was created when a monk named Brother Pascual tripped and accidentally spilled the ingredients into a pot. In her debut children's book, McAlister adds a kid's-eye-view twist, positing that an orphaned kitchen boy named Carlos unwittingly created this celebrated concoction. Poor Carlos is convinced he is permanently in the doghouse after causing Brother Pascual to drop ingredients intended for several different courses into the turkey pot. But then "the most delicious smells began to rise from the simmering stew-a rich mixture of chilies, garlic, chocolate and cinnamon." The thick, savory sauce enchants the palates of both the monks and their VIP visitor, the Viceroy. Czernecki's (Zigzag) illustrations never offer a sense of time or place-in fact, he dispenses with backgrounds altogether and provides his angular characters with just enough props to carry the story. Budding foodies-especially young fans of the spontaneous gastronomy of Iron Chef-will likely find this a tale to pique their appetites. Ages 5-8. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Carlos works in the kitchen of a Mexican monastery cleaning up messes and helping with errands. One day the cook arrives with exciting news. The Spanish viceroy is on his way to visit the monastery, and will eat dinner with the brothers. How will the brothers provide hospitality to one of the most important men in Mexico? Just as meal preparations are completed, Carlos becomes curious. He collides with Brother Pascual, and the big tray of seasonings, almonds, onions, and sesame seeds fly through the air. Chocolate, chiles, and cumin soar across the room. Plink! Plip! Plop! All the spices land in the pot where the turkey is cooking. The brothers hang their heads in despair. It appears that the meal is ruined. Carlos feels a deep sense of guilt, and until the most delicious of smells rises from the simmering stew—a rich mixture of chilies, garlic, chocolate, and cinnamon. After tasting the dish, the viceroy exclaims, "How unusual! This is the best dish I have ever tasted! I give the cook my highest praise." Caroline McAlister's story will charm readers, and Stefan Czernecki's illustrations add the perfect touch to a story based on mole, a thick, savory sauce containing chocolate that is served over turkey or chicken on special feast days in Mexico. Caroline McAlister has cooked up a delicious tail inspired by an old Mexican legend, and it is guaranteed to enchant readers of all ages.
Kirkus Reviews
Incorporating details from Mexican legends, McAlister offers a version of a story that explains how mole, a blend of chocolate, chili peppers and spices usually served on turkey, was created. The tasty dish was probably eaten in Aztec times, but several tales connect its origins to religious brothers or sisters preparing food fit to serve a Spanish viceroy. In this version, the friars scurry around, chopping chilies, cutting chocolate and grinding cinnamon. Carlos, a fictional hungry kitchen boy, tries to grab a falling bun and trips the legendary character, Brother Pascual, as he carries the ingredients for many different sauces and desserts. The unlikely combination of chocolate and savory spices falls into the turkey pot, and the rest is culinary history. The funny, economically told story would be easy for children to retell or dramatize, but Czernecki, who usually does a fine job illustrating folktales, depicts Carlos as a cartoon-like character with a tiny sombrero perched on his head. While stylistically in keeping with the brothers, the bishop and the viceroy, all rendered in bold simple shapes on bright white backgrounds, Carlos looks like a throwback to the touristy images of Mexican peasants of earlier decades-what a shame! (author's note with sources) (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874837759
  • Publisher: August House Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 540L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 11.36 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2007

    A Tasty Mexican Treat

    My two grandchildren and I loved this book. They insisted on tasting mole sauce and though their reaction was not as favorable as the viceroys, they became interested in Mexican food and especially learning some Spanish words.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2007

    A Crude Stereotype

    This book represents the worst kind of stereotypes of hispanic culture. The story is not accurate, the title contains misspelt Spanish and the caricatures are stereotypical and crude. Portraying Mexicans as always barefoot, wearing sombreros and being greedy and clumsy will not help promote better understanding between cultures because it is unrealistic and demeaning. I would hope parents, teachers and librarians recognise the problems with this book and do not give it to children to read or raise these issues with them if they do.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2007

    Holy Mole

    This is a wonderful fable about the origins of mole sauce. The author captures the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen with a child underfoot perfectly - a special read for parents who like to cook with their children - and who enjoy folk tales.

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