The Princess of Borscht

The Princess of Borscht

by Leda Schubert, Bonnie Christensen
     
 

Ruthie's grandma is in the hospital, not surprisingly complaining about the food. All she wants is a nice bowl of borscht. Ruthie comes to the rescue, even though she hasn't the faintest idea of how to make it. With the help of a few well-meaning neighbors (including the Tsarina of Borscht and the Empress of Borscht and some ingenuity of her own), a soul-reviving

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Overview

Ruthie's grandma is in the hospital, not surprisingly complaining about the food. All she wants is a nice bowl of borscht. Ruthie comes to the rescue, even though she hasn't the faintest idea of how to make it. With the help of a few well-meaning neighbors (including the Tsarina of Borscht and the Empress of Borscht and some ingenuity of her own), a soul-reviving brew is concocted…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ruthie’s beloved Grandma may be hospitalized with pneumonia, but she’s still a firecracker: “ person could starve to death here,” she tells Ruthie. What Grandma wants—and by 5 p.m., no less—is homemade borscht, preferably from her own secret recipe. Ruthie’s attempt to recreate the borscht with the help of the highly opinionated women who live in Grandma’s building is really several stories at once: Ruthie’s discovery of her inner chef (she becomes the borscht “Princess” to Grandma’s “Queen”); her initiation into the guild of elite home cooks; and an affirmation of membership in a loving—if also interfering and contentious—community. Christensen’s (Fabulous: A Portrait of Andy Warhol) exuberant, sketch-style drawings have a knowing humor and immediacy that pull readers into the story; her Rosie is by turns bemused and befuddled, but her gentle determination shines through. Likewise, Schubert (Feeding the Sheep) hits just the right notes of sweet, sour, and salty in portraying a milieu in which operatic emotions, bickering, and sharp remarks (“Pooh. What do they know?” says Grandma of her peers) are really a form of unconditional affection. Ages 4–7. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

Pair this with variations on stone soup for a soup-themed storytime, or check it out for the weekend yourself and try out Ruthie’s borscht recipe included on the back cover. --BCCB
 
“Schubert turns the story of a sick relative, not a particularly cheery topic, into a sweet and salty tale, warmed by Christensen’s lively sketches, about bickering Jewish neighbors and intergenerational caregiving.” --New York Times
 
“…the tale of competing cooks and grandmother/grandchild love is universal.” --School Library Journal
 
“Christensen’s illustrations, with their sketchlike dark lines and subdued hues enhanced by pinky-red beet-colored accents, reflect the comfortable disarray of Ruthie’s family life.” --Horn Book Magazine
 
“Schubert hits just the right notes of sweet, sour, and salty in portraying a milieu in which operatic emotions, bickering, and sharp remarks are really a form of unconditional affection.” --Publishers Weekly
 
“Appetizing and heartwarming.” --Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
 
“…[a] heartwarmed tale….This book makes a nice addition to the list of titles for children dealing with a loved one in the hospital...” --Booklist

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Ruthie's grandmother is in the hospital recovering from pneumonia. When she tells Ruthie, "...a person could starve to death here," Ruthie promises to bring her some homemade borscht by 5:00. But before Grandma can tell her how to make her secret recipe, she falls asleep. In search of the recipe, Ruthie consults the neighbors. Each in turn boasts about her recipe, being The Empress, the First Lady, the Tsarina of Borscht. Each adds an ingredient to Ruthie's pot. They leave, still arguing, as Ruthie fears that the soup tastes terrible. Finally, Mr. Lee at the corner store offers sour cream. When they arrive on time back at the hospital, Grandma eats some and feels better. Ruthie says that if Grandma is the Queen of Borscht, then Ruthie must be the Princess. Grandma's next challenge is noodle pudding. And again, Grandma is asleep before Ruthie can get the recipe. Sketchy black crayon-y outlines and intensely applied color give vitality to the illustrations of this humorous tale. The naturalistic characters, in minimal settings, are endowed with believable personalities. A recipe for Ruthie's borscht, "with help from Grandma," is on the back jacket. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Grandma, hospitalized for pneumonia, complains to Ruthie about the dreadful food and asks for homemade borscht. With no recipe to guide her, the girl gets conflicting advice from neighbors who claim to be Empress, First Lady, and Tsarina of Borscht. Ruthie cobbles ingredients together and adds her own touch-some dill-just because it smells good. Queen of Borscht Grandma declares the soup delicious, and Ruthie names herself Princess of Borscht. All seems happily settled-until Grandma requests noodle pudding for the next day. Most young readers will likely agree with Ruthie's Dad that beet soup is "yucky," but they will admire Ruthie's pluck in taking on the challenge of cooking it. The warm relationship between Ruthie and her grandmother is appealing, and the arguing neighbors lend humor to the story. The sketchy illustrations have a folksy charm, and the faces are expressive, conveying subtleties such as worry, annoyance, and pride. Speech patterns, names, and the menu itself imply that the characters are Jewish, although this is never stated in the text; in any case, the tale of competing cooks and grandmother/grandchild love is universal.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Too many cooks can make wonderful borscht. Ruthie's grandmother is in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, but the hospital food is so terrible that she tells Ruthie to bring her some homemade borscht "or who knows what will happen." Fearful of the consequences of failure, Ruthie searches for the secret recipe without success. She calls on her grandma's neighbors for help. They are, respectively, the Empress, First Lady and Tsarina of Borscht. Each gives advice and ingredients, while Ruthie adds a touch of her own. Armed with sour cream from Mr. Lee at the corner store (maybe he's the King of Borscht?), she brings the borscht to Grandma, the real Queen of Borscht, who pronounces it perfect. Ruthie has saved Grandma just in time. Of course, it's not just about borscht or even about cooking, though there's a great recipe included. Schubert has concocted a sweet mixture of traditions that bind and give comfort, along with love in many forms; intergenerational family, friends and neighbors all act with selflessness, kindness and compassion. Christensen's heavily outlined, strongly colored illustrations emphasize equally strong personalities. The paintings are filled with details that add interest to the proceedings, from the array of get-well cards in the hospital room to the homey, old-fashioned décor of Grandma's apartment. Appetizing and heartwarming. (Picture book. 3-9)
Pamela Paul
Schubert…turns the story of a sick relative…into a sweet and salty tale, warmed by Christensen's lively sketches…
—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596435155
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
11/22/2011
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

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