Just Right Stew

Just Right Stew

by Karen English, Anna Rich

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Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction


Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A girl runs errands for her family as they prepare a batch of their famous oxtail stew for her birthday, but when no one can agree on the missing essential spice, she knows the secret. "Authentic and lively dialogue move this savory story along at a snappy pace," wrote PW. Ages 5-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Authentic and lively dialogue, framed by a perceptive girl's flowing first-person narrative, move English's (Big Wind Coming) savory story along at a snappy pace. Victoria runs errands for her mother and aunts as they prepare a batch of Big Mama's (their mother's) famous oxtail stew for her birthday, but can't agree on the missing essential spice. "You both can't taste. You must be gettin' old," snaps the youngest aunt when her sisters tell her that the cumin she has added to the pot hasn't done the trick. Victoria, of course, knows the secret. Rich's (Annie's Gifts) boldly hued, textured oil paintings add an extra dash of humor to these spirited goings-on, effectively capturing the sisters' frustration and impatience in their facial expressions and gestures. The determinate scope and setting of the plot elicits somewhat repetitive scenes in the artwork, and an uneven distribution of text makes for several word-laden pages. But these minor flaws will hardly prevent youngsters from relishing this tale, which certainly has the requisite ingredients for a satisfying read. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Patricia Timbrook
For Big Mama's birthday party, Victoria's Mama is fixing everyone's favorite, Grandmother's oxtail stew. The problem is that no one from Mama, to Aunt Rose, to Aunt Violet, to Aunt Clary, and to Aunt Mae knows what Big Mama's secret ingredient really is. Each relative thinks she knows and adds it to the pot of stew. The only person other than Big Mama herself who knows what the secret ingredient is, is young Victoria. But, when she tries to tell Mama and the others what will make the stew taste like Big Mama's, they don't want to listen. By the end of the story the reader is wondering, What IS that ingredient? Finally, the writer delights her audience with the answer. With its realistic oil paintings, this picture book stirs up the feelings of home and family. Though it's obvious that the story centers around finding out the stew's secret ingredient, the story carries an even stronger message of the strong bond between Big Mama and Victoria-"sugar" of another kind-the one which some people know, and touchingly refer to as, love.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Just Right Stew is just right for a bedtime storyit will put anyone to sleep. It's Big Mama's birthday and her family decides to surprise her by making her favorite dish, oxtail stew. Unfortunately, no one knows all of the ingredients. The family members bicker about the recipe, each one adding a different spice. Finally, Big Mama arrives. Alone with her granddaughter in the kitchen, Big Mama whips out the secret ingredient, sugar. At dinner she proclaims, "My, my, that's the best oxtail stew I've ever tasted. I do believe this stew is better than my very own." The story is told by young Victoria, who is unable to get any of her aunts' attention to tell them exactly what's missing, for she has watched her grandmother make the stew. Rich's colorful, oil illustrations enhance the text. However, the story misses the mark for several reasons. The family is unflatteringly portrayed as petty and argumentative. The very slight plot gets bogged down in verbose dialogue, and the predictable characterizations leave readers hungry for a little more seasoning.Malka Keck, The Temple Tifereth Israel, Beachwood, OH
Kirkus Reviews
This charmer of a story revolves around the construction of an oxtail stew as witnessed by Victoria, a loving granddaughter who knows how to keep a secret. Big Mama's daughters are attempting to make her stew, without her help, for a party in her honor that evening. But the stew's just not right, and Victoria watches as her mother and aunt decide first that dill, and then lemon pepper is needed. Before the stew is served up, others will have arrived with cumin, garlic powder, and red pepper. Then Victoria and Big Mama, alone in the kitchen, add one essential ingredient, sugar. English (Neeny Coming, Neeny Going, 1996) does a fine job of getting right into Victoria's head as she experiences the push and pull of being a youngster among many adults, and she also conveys the pleasures of the banter and squabbling of a large family. Rich's illustrations add immeasurably to the mix, vividly depicting the gathering of big, bold personalities as the family converges on the pot of stew. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.10(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Karen English is the author of Just Right Stew, among many other books for children. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

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