Parents and teachers of children who love all kinds of food and have an affinity for meeting new people will love author illustrator Beth Walrond’s newest over-size picture book, A Taste of the World: What People Eat and How They Celebrate Around the Globe. It’s the perfect recipe for learning about the scrumptious food that other countries fill their bellies with.
The book allows students to breeze across Asia and the Middle East, where they learn about rice, where it’s grown and how it is harvested; delicious Chinese dishes with cutesy names like dim sum (small dishes of bite-sized food), and how and when Xian Nian (the Chinese New Year) is celebrated; and Indian dishes that are seasoned with “masala,” a special mixture of spices. There are sections on how Middle Easterners celebrate feasts and holidays, including Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights that is celebrated for five days with gifts, fireworks and candles; Hanami, a cherry blossom festival; and Songkran, which is the Thai New Year.
On the continent of Africa, young readers learn all about African spices, and how, in ancient times, nutmeg was more valuable than gold. They visit Ethiopia and learn that their cuisine is “thick, spicy meat stews and vegetable side dishes.” They learn that the kola nut that’s used to make coca cola comes from Nigeria, and that Nigerians celebrate Argungu, a fish and cultural festival.
This book is packed with information about other lands, other cultures and other foods, and it can easily double as a supplemental encyclopedia or Book of Knowledge for the social studies classrooms. Students who are not well-traveled will feel like they are when they get the inside scoop on Morocco dishes like couscous and chicken tagine with almonds and almond briouat. The author discusses everything from the cheeses of France and the pizzas of Italy to the crayfish parties (Kraftskiva) of Sweden.
If there is one quibble about this book, it is that it reads more like an encyclopedia than a children’s book. This reviewer would have loved to read a bit of dialogue — especially in the form personal interviews, to bring the countries and their people (and appetites) alive.
Other than this, the book should be a worthy addition to any social studies, citizenship or world cultures discussion.