Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland. Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. 9781534461406
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? This hip and adorable biography of food guru Alice Waters starts with her childhood in Chatham, New Jersey, where she ate food at the peak of freshness out of her family’s backyard garden. Then we humorously observe her family sadly sitting at a table littered with frozen and canned foods as winter sets in. We see Alice arriving in Berkeley for college, eating her way through France during her junior year abroad, and buying the ramshackle house that will eventually become Chez Panisse. Even the crazy parts of the story get some space here, like the novice chefs dancing to rock-and-roll after hours, or a bet between two movie directors that ends with boiling a shoe for hours in duck fat to see if it can be made edible. The joyful and idiosyncratic illustrations, executed in watercolors, are full of fascinating details. A French poodle joins Alice’s guests at one of her legendary dinner parties, a waiter with a garlic head serves on Bastille Day, and a double-page spread illustrates Waters’s lasting impact on small farms and the locavore revolution. The overall book design is thoughtful and rich, with the Typewriter font recalling the early Chez Panisse menus and the red-and-white checkered endpapers cheerfully screaming “PICNIC”. Back matter includes a long essay on Waters’s influence in the restaurant industry and her development of the Edible Schoolyard initiative, a timeline of Waters’ life, and a bibliography.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a great introduction to an American icon. Waters’s life will be appealing to those interested in food and cooking, famous women, or social justice. The small, detailed illustrations make it better suited to one-on-one reading or small groups, but the rolicking text, that repeats “Best [fill in the blank] ever!” will be an invitation for kids to join in the read aloud.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Biographies
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: April 11, 2022