Review of Our Little Kitchen

Our Little Kitchen
by Jillian Tamaki; illus. by the author
Primary    Abrams    48 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-4197-4655-0    $17.99

Our narrator explains, with great enthusiasm and gusto, how “every Wednesday, we come together in this little kitchen” to prepare a communal meal for all who are hungry. Meal prep begins with “what we’ve got”: veggies (some quite imperfect) from the urban garden; whatever’s in the fridge (“OH! — Dunno what this is, but it’s GOTTA GO!”); day-old bread; “beans from the food bank? Third week in a row! But it’s what we’ve got, we’ll use ’em somehow.” A sense of effervescent improvisation pervades the tale, through its cookery details and the text’s rhythm and design. We see frequent shifts between main text and dialogue, with speech bubbles barely containing the conversational chatter and even intersecting during “cooperative overlap” (a.k.a. interrupting). Yummy sound effects abound — the rewarding, drawn-out “Slurp” near the end contains six Ss, six Ls, four Us, five Rs, and four Ps, all uppercase and of varying sizes. The illustrations themselves, “done with a nib and ink” and colored digitally, feature sure-handed black outlines, comics-style, around characters of all ages, shapes, races, religions, abilities, and genders, each of whom exudes vibrancy, warmth, individuality, and purpose. It’s no surprise that, per the appended note, the story is based on Tamaki’s experiences volunteering at a community kitchen in a gentrifying neighborhood — with the joyful safe space of the dining room as succor for the longtime denizens: “See you next week!” The endpapers include recipes for vegetable soup (front) and apple crumble (back — because dessert!).

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

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

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