Review of I Hate Borsch!

I Hate Borsch! I Hate Borsch!
by Yevgenia Nayberg; illus. by the author
Primary    Eerdmans    56 pp.    g
4/22    978-0-8028-5580-0    $17.99

As a child in Ukraine, our protagonist couldn’t stand borsch. “Get away from me, you red, thick, disgusting soup!” she says on the very first page, as a huge wave of the stuff curls ominously toward her. On subsequent spreads, readers learn more about her aversion and about borsch’s ingredients, plus conditions in Ukraine at the time: “There wasn’t much else to eat!” Before her family immigrates to the United States, the child is gifted with various recipes, but in truth she’s thrilled to have choices other than borscht (its American spelling). Time passes, and then one day the now-adult narrator, feeling nostalgic, retrieves the recipes, gathers her ingredients, and prepares the once-reviled dish, which reminds her of home (though…we don’t see her actually eating it). Acrylic, pencil, and digital collage illustrations—­featuring oversize vegetables and ­sunflowers, unusual angles and ­perspectives, and layers of texture—­capture the story’s lighthearted quirkiness, its universality regarding picky eaters, and its cultural specificity, especially welcome today. The appended author’s note provides a disclaimer—“There are as many borsch recipes as there are Ukrainian grandmas. And don’t even get me started on the neighboring counties of Eastern Europe and their borsch recipes!”—and the author’s own step-by-step version.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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