Review of Tomatoes in My Lunchbox

Tomatoes in My Lunchbox Tomatoes in My Lunchbox
by Costantia Manoli; illus. by Magdalena Mora
Primary    Roaring Brook    32 pp.    g
6/22    978-1-250-76312-9    $18.99

“There is a whole world in my name. I carry it with me. It’s heavy carrying your whole world around with you all the time.” After the young narrator leaves home for life in a new country far away, her once-beautiful name morphs into something ugly when her teacher tries to pronounce it at school roll call. Her name—soft, comforting, and reminiscent of her beloved grandmother—becomes “strange,” “sharp,” or, worse, “like something breaking.” Adding to her feeling of foreignness: no one else’s school lunch contains a large tomato to be eaten whole. Eventually, the narrator and another girl bond over their shared love of the color yellow and become friends. Soon she has a circle of friends who have learned to pronounce her name so that it “sounds like home.” Double-page spreads in ink, pastel, and crayon highlight the initial contrasts between the narrator’s old home and her new one. Illustrations focus on food and family, the book’s visual metaphors for difference, while the color yellow becomes a visual through-line for the theme of connectedness. A comforting book for a child who may feel isolated due to an uncommon name, or for one feeling uprooted and adrift in a new place. An author’s note provides personal context.

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

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