Fry Bread : A Native American Family Story – written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

 Fry Bread : A Native American Family Story – written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, Roaring Brook Press, 2019. 9781626725.

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Picture Book

What did you like about the book? Fry bread is a staple of Native American cooking in most tribes throughout the United States, but it is more than just a recipe or a traditional treat.  Each spread in the illustrated portion of this lovely book addresses a different aspect of the origins and cultural significance of fry bread.  The first spread begins “Fry bread is food…” and goes on to identify the common ingredients and shows a Native American grandmother and a jubilant band of children as they gather what they need to get started.  Throughout the book, family members are seen making fry bread, spending time together, sharing food and stories, as the text poetically relates why fry bread is round, color, time, history, everything.

The book then transitions to several pages of back matter, which begins with the author’s personal favorite fry bread recipe, and then a lengthy author’s note. He provides detailed information about the significance of fry bread in so many different Native American tribes and families across the country, and how it reflects the diversity of indigenous culture and symbolizes the resilience and strength of Native peoples.  In sections that correspond with each heading in the illustrated part of the book, he explains interesting details in the illustrations of the story, such as pottery or fabric patterns or a tattoo on one of the characters, while also offering up a very important history lesson.

The simplicity and warmth of the illustrated narrative will appeal to all audiences, and Martinez-Neal’s art is, as always, exceptional.  But the author’s notes are so important for a close read, for older readers and adults, that this book should be shared with students and families of all ages.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? This will make a wonderful readaloud or readalong for October and November in elementary schools everywhere, delightful on its own but helpful as counterpoint to lessons on Columbus and the Pilgrims.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.

Date of review: 11/8/19

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