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Review of The Princess of Borscht

The Princess of BorschtThe Princess of Borscht
by Leda Schubert; illus. by Bonnie Christensen
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    32 pp.
11/11    978-1-59643-515-5    $17.99

Though the book opens with Ruthie and her father at the hospital visiting Ruthie’s grandmother, laid up with pneumonia, this isn’t a coping-with-death book. Bubbe’s not failing, she’s a finagler. Unsatisfied by hospital food (“a person could starve to death here”), she sends Ruthie to her apartment to prepare a pot of borscht. Ruthie has never made borscht before, so luckily (or is it?) Grandma’s yenta neighbors — the self-anointed Empress, First Lady, and Tsarina of Borscht — come around to offer their culinary expertise. The conflicting advice — onions? no onions! sugar? no, honey! lemons?! — leaves Ruthie’s head spinning until her own instincts kick in. Back at the hospital, after presenting her concoction to the expert (“for borscht, I am the Queen”), Ruthie is promptly rewarded with her own honorific of princess, not to mention another assignment: “You know, tomorrow I might like a noodle pudding.” Schubert’s characters, and the interactions among them, feel entirely authentic; the family dynamic is apparent (Ruthie’s father: “Soup from beets?…Yuck”), while Grandma’s three cronies just can’t help themselves when it comes to one-upmanship. Christensen’s illustrations, with their sketchlike dark lines and subdued hues enhanced by pinky-red beet-colored accents, reflect the comfortable disarray of Ruthie’s family life. “Ruthie’s Borscht (with help from Grandma)” recipe is included on the jacket.

From the November/December 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.



  1. Wow! I am over the moon today! Thanks, people.

  2. Congratulations, Leda and Bonnie, on a delightful book and a fine review!

  3. This sounds like a book kids can really relate to! Any book with children learning to cook is important in this microwave age 🙂

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