Review of Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
by Kevin Noble Maillard; illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal
Preschool, Primary    Roaring Brook    48 pp.
10/19    978-1-62672-746-5    $18.99

This affectionate picture book depicts an intergenerational group of Native American family members and friends as they make fry bread together. The text begins: “Fry bread is food / Flour, salt, water / Cornmeal, baking powder / perhaps milk, maybe sugar.” On subsequent pages we learn that “Fry bread is shape…sound…color,” etc.; and through the refrain “Fry bread is…” readers learn that the food staple, although common to many Native American homes, is as varied as the people who make it and the places where it is made. This diversity, too, is reflected in Martinez-Neal’s warmhearted acrylic, colored-pencil, and graphite illustrations, on hand-textured paper, in which the characters within Native American communities have varying skin tones and hair texture. More than just food, “Fry bread is time…Fry bread is art…Fry bread is history.” In the extensive, informative back matter, Maillard (a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey band) explains how fry bread became a part of many Native Americans’ diet after the people were forced from their land and given limited rations by the United States government. The book’s endpapers powerfully list the names of Indigenous communities and nations currently within the U.S., some federally recognized, others not. Regardless of “official” status—as the book declares—“We are still here.” Reference list and notes—plus a recipe—are appended.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Nicholl Denice Montgomery

Nicholl Denice Montgomery is currently working on a PhD at Boston College in the curriculum and instruction department. Previously, she worked as an English teacher with Boston Public Schools.

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