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Holy Mole: A Folktale from Mexico

Holy Mole: A Folktale from Mexico

by Carline McAlister, Stefan
Carlos is working in the kitchen of the Mexican monastery when the cook enters the room in a panic. The Spanish Viceroy is on his way for a surprise visit and will arrive by noon, expecting dinner. What will the brothers feed this important ambassador to the king? Carlos tries to stay out of the way as lunch is hastily prepared, but his curiosity gets the best of him.


Carlos is working in the kitchen of the Mexican monastery when the cook enters the room in a panic. The Spanish Viceroy is on his way for a surprise visit and will arrive by noon, expecting dinner. What will the brothers feed this important ambassador to the king? Carlos 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 the brothers can only assume is a miracle. This story, inspired by the Mexican folk tradition, explains the origins of molé, the popular national dish that combines chocolate with turkey, spices, and nuts. Stefan Czernecki's amusing, angular illustrations capture the chaos in the kitchen as well as the folk tradition behind the tale.

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)

Product Details

August House Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.74(w) x 11.36(h) x 0.38(d)
540L (what's this?)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Caroline McAlister Bio: Caroline McAlister was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. When she was 12 (sixth grade), her father had a sabbatical and took the family to Europe for a year where she became interested in foreign languages and cultures. These interests have helped her in her writing and research. The summer before she left home for college, she travelled to Guadalajara, Mexico with a tennis team from Sacramento. She worked some of the smells, sounds and sights from that trip into her first book, ¡Holy Molé! She has not taken a straight path to becoming a children’s writer, but when she looks back she realizes that’s what she always wanted to be. Her childhood notebooks prove that she intended to write legends and fairy tales from the very beginning. In graduate school, McAlister wrote a dissertation and several articles on 17th century poet, John Milton. Later, she worked as an English Professor. Then, she fell in love again with books by reading to her two children, Abby and Allie. She began to write children’s books in her head, then moved to the computer, and then started sending them out to publishers. It took several years to get her first book published, but playing junior tennis and writing a dissertation taught her tenacity. McAlister now lives in Greensboro, North Carolina where she teaches writing part time at Guilford College. She tries to write something every day and send out a manuscript every week.
Stefan Czernecki Bio: Stefan Czernecki was born in a refugee camp in Germany and now lives in a small glass apartment one hundred and fifty feet above the ground. For inspiration, he travels to faraway places like Tokyo, Mexico City, New York and Marrakesh. Sometimes he just takes a walk around the block. A number of his books are inspired by folk art from other countries. His creative work has been awarded the prestigious Aesop Accolade given by the American Folklore Society.

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