The Neighborhood Surprise – by Sarah van Dongen

The Neighborhood Surprise – by Sarah van Dongen, Tiny Owl, 9781910328712, 2021

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? This is a great community story of intergenerational friendship. Kaya, Hassan, and Alex are children, and love spending time with their elderly neighbor, Mrs. Fig. When they learn she is moving, they decide to throw a neighborhood goodbye party for her. I especially like how they highlight different types of foods, including falafel and curry, and make sure to have both vegetarian and vegan food options for different people. The neighborhood shows diverse characters, including different skin colors, physical abilities (including a person in a wheelchair and a person using a cane), and religious head coverings. A variety of ages are also included, from babies, young children, older children, adults, and more elderly people, and all clearly enjoy spending time together. The illustrations include lots of details – like toys, pets, plants, kitchen utensils, books, Tibetan Prayer Flags, and more – to give a comfortable and lived in feel to the homes and the neighborhood. An author’s note at the end describes what vegan and vegetarian mean and some reasons why people may choose to be vegan or vegetarian. 

Anything you did not like about the book. Since there is specific discussion of different types of food, including vegan and vegetarian food, it would have been nice to also include a few recipes of items made in the story.

To whom would you recommend this book? I would especially recommend this to kids who like to cook and eat different foods. It would also make a great read aloud with a community theme. Read-alike with Thank You, Omu! (Mora).

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: July 4, 2021

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