Sam and the Incredible African and American Food Fight by Shannon Gibney, illustrated by Charly Palmer

Sam and the Incredible African and American Food Fight by Shannon Gibney, illustrated by Charly Palmer. University of Minnesota Press, 2023. 9781517909659

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

Format: Picture book, advanced reading copy (publication date 4/23)

What did you like about the book? As Sam entered his kitchen after school, the Incredible African and American food fight was raging again. Children will delight in imagining food being slung hither and yon, and be equally surprised to find out that the “fight” is actually a quest by Sam’s dad and aunt to get him and his sister Connah to eat their traditional Liberian foods like torbogee soup.  Meanwhile his African American mom is equally invested in having him try sausage pizza, meatballs, and tacos. As the days pass, Sam becomes more agitated and uncertain about what to do. He doesn’t want to let either of his parents, or his aunt down, but he can’t figure out how to navigate all of the food choices without hurting feelings. His stomach finally does the talking, telling him any kind of meal is right as long as they get to eat, eat, eat! Sam blends the foods together on his plate into incredible combinations and he even convinces the adults to join in. They all quickly realize that each of the foods have merit and that they deserve to be featured on their table. Sam is left with one big question – What’s for dessert? The end pages feature recipes for torbogee soup as well as for the Gibney Family Homemade Pizza. Palmer’s illustrations captivate throughout. The bold colors, brush strokes and vibrant portrayal of Sam’s dilemma make the story that much more comical, relatable, and charming. 

Anything you did not like about the book?  No

To whom would you recommend this book? This is a perfect read aloud for elementary students and an excellent way to introduce acceptance and diversity into classroom discussions.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: March 14, 2023

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