Saturday at the Food Pantry by Diane O’Neill, illustrated by Brizida Magro

Saturday at the Food Pantry by Diane O’Neill, illustrated by Brizida Magro. Albert Whitman, 2021. 9780807572368

Rating: 1-51-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: ARC (9/21 pub date)

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? Molly and her mom need food and go to the food pantry on Saturday morning. They wait in line, where Molly sees her friend Caitlin from school, who is embarrassed to be seen there. This is a poignant moment, the realization that there may be shame in needing help. When they are selecting food, Molly’s mom won’t let her get cookies, as she assumes that the people in charge want them to get “sensible stuff.” This is another moment of confusion for Molly, but she whispers to her mom “Everybody needs help sometimes…,” which is what her mom told her when explaining why they are going to the food pantry. Joblessness, single parent families, and kids who live with grandparents, as well as food insecurity, are part of this story. Kids will recognize that these issues are invisible to the eye and that asking for help is a good and important thing to do.

Black, Brown and White people are portrayed at the food pantry. Molly has brown skin, her mom has white skin, and Caitlin and her gran have white skin, reinforcing the idea that “everyone needs help sometimes.” The realistic illustrations, which appear to use digital tools and collage materials, complement the story nicely and show the food pantry with informative details. I think this story is important for kids to hear, especially for those who do not use food pantries, as food insecurity is likely a problem with some of their classmates, whether they know it or not.

Anything you didn’t like about it? There’s a bit of a disconnect in the beginning pages, as Molly’s mom tells her that they have “fancy milk,” but then Molly goes to bed without it, with the implication that they don’t have it after all.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For ages 4-8, especially as part of a unit on food and families.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public 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: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review:  August 23, 2021

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