Saturday, January 27, 2018

#ReadYourWorld: More Diverse Picture Book Reviews

It's Multicultural Children's Book Day and what better day than today to review two books about traditions in two different cultures - Korean and Jamaican.

No Kimchi for Me! written and illustrated by Aram Kim
2017, Holiday House, 40 pages
It's a rainy day and Yoomi wants to play with her big brothers so badly, but they just say no, they think she's a baby. Why do they think that? Because she just doesn't like Grandma's spicy kimchi, and they think that only big kids eat it and like it. What to do? No matter how hard she tries, Yoomi just doesn't like the spicy taste of kimchi - not even on a chocolate chip cookie. Grandma to the rescue. Together, Yoomi and Grandma put together a delectable dish made with kimchi that even big brothers like to eat. This is a lovely intergenerational story highlighting family, food, and culture in Yoomi's Korean family. Kimchi, as author Aram Kim notes, is a traditional Korean dish that is eaten with almost every meal and has the benefit of being one of the world's healthiest foods. So you can just imagine how left out Yoomi must have felt not liking it. Kim's illustrations, done in a bright palette using pencil, colored pencils, and pastels, depict other Korean dishes as the family sits down to lunch. Many young kids have food aversions, including to traditional favorites from their own cultural background like Yoomi, and this is a great story to help them embrace their family's culinary dishes. As an added bonus, Kim includes a recipe for easy to make kimchi pancakes, which is actually her mother's own recipe.      

Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards,
illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan
2016, Wise Ink Creative Publishing, 32 pages 
Young Giovanni isn't quite as fond of his grandma traditional Sunday dinner dish of Jamaican stewed chicken with rice and beans (or as he calls it - rice and rocks) as his Auntie is. And this Sunday, his friends Emily, Aaron, and Gabby are coming over for dinner, and Giovanni is afraid they won't like rice and rocks, either. When he explains this to his Auntie, she takes him for a magical ride around the world to all the places his friend's families are culturally a part of, simply by rubbing the beak of his pet parrot Jasper. What a surprise when Giovanni learns all the diverse ways that rice and beans are traditional in different parts of the world. In Japan, they are called sekihan, and his friend Aaron probably is familiar with that dish. In Puerto Rico, rice and beans are call arroz con gandules, a dish Emily probably has on special occasions, holidays, and even Sunday dinner. Even in New Orleans, people eat rice and beans, and it was a favorite of jazz musician Louis Armstrong there, and mostly likely, Gabby loves it, too.  As Giovanni and Auntie visit the different places, young readers learn about and to appreciate different cultures with him. This is a charming story, with an element of fantasy to it, that reminds us not only how important our cultural  traditions are, but how nice it is to invite our friends to share them with us. Sullivan's bold, colorful illustrations are the perfect fit for a story about culinary traditions.

Family and food plays a big part in both of these books. After all, eating is such a social experience, whether with family or with friends, or friends and family, and both No Kimchi for Me and Rice & Rocks focus on food. Trying new culinary dishes is perhaps one of the most important means for learning about one's own culture and for breaking down barriers and helping people to understand and embrace others. After all, if you like on just hamburgers, you can never really learn to appreciate diverse cultures. A good reason to encourage kids to #ReadYourWorld.


  1. Thank you so much Alex for both your wonderful blog, these great reviews and for supporting Multicultural Children's Book Day for all these years!

    I hope you can join us tonight at our Twitter Party from 9-10pm EST. We will be giving away hundreds of diverse children's books in the form of 13 book bundles. One will be given away every six minutes.

    The questions with the book prizes are posted here:

  2. I have been wanting to read No Kimchi for Me! for a while. My library system does not have it :( I am probably going to do an interlibrary loan for it. At KidLit TV there is a video with the author making kimchi. I will keep a look out for Rice and Rocks too. Thanks for the recommendations.

  3. HA HA -- my daughter hates Kimchi! This will be fun to share with her. Thanks! Shared online!

  4. Oh, thank you for featuring No Kimchi for Me! I've just bought copies for my half-Korean grandchildren. Thanks again so much. And I love kimchi. This is the kind I buy:


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