Miller, Christopher David. Chef Toussaint. (2021). Dare to Be King Project.
Summary: Chef Toussaint Palmer is a 9-year-old boy who resides in Georgia and is passionate about cooking. His love for food is engrained in his family where the kitchen is referred to as a magical place. It all began with Nana and her sisters who were the successful owners of a soul food restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi. Nana’s love for homemade cornbread, peach cobbler and banana pudding are a few favorites that have been influential in shaping Toussaint’s’ family traditions. The smell of vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg floating through the air is an aroma that entices the community where Toussaint is known as a cooking sensation. Toussaint shares his delightful caramel apples with sixteen local restaurants to showcase his talent. He also enters the local “Buckhead Cook-Off” a big competition in Atlanta where the top winner is featured on a magazine cover and wins a cash prize. Will Toussaint make his mark in this challenging competition? Are the recipes influenced by Nana enough to impress the judges? Will he be the youngest chef to ever win?
Strengths: This book mirrors the importance of community and family. Toussaint emulates what he is exposed to as young boy which shapes his outlook without limitations. He develops a sense of self and confidently takes on challenges while growing up in a healthy environment. His passion for cooking supports his drive that screams, “I can do anything!”.
Weaknesses: It would have been nice to hear or see how Toussaint interacts with others his age somewhere in the story.
Thoughts: This book embraces ethnic pride through its content and illustrations. It is a book that will influence those who desire to become part of the culinary profession. However, the impact of cooking is just the key storyline. The overall message is one that has the potential to encourage young readers to dream big and to face the challenge of something new with confidence.
Kendall, Christine. The True Definition of Neva Beane.(2020). Scholastic Inc.
Summary: Neva Beane is a vibrant young tween who rides an emotional roller coaster trying to find herself. As a West Philly native, she spends time with her best friend, admires her brother’s girlfriend and has several unexpected embarrassing moments. Neva is under the watchful eye of her grandparents for the summer who are more concerned about her whereabouts than anything else. In addition, to the scrutiny Neva’s parents spend countless hours away trying to pursue their stagnant career as musicians. Neva copes with her challenges by recording her thoughts in a notebook. She starts each entry with a “word” that describes her main thoughts or feelings. This becomes her own personal dictionary. Although, she wants to just be left alone to do as she is pleased, Neva finds interest in attending a “march” to support the greater good of her community. In the meantime, she also needs to repair her relationship with her best friend and adhere to the rules of her parents even in the distance. How will she juggle it all and have a fun summer too?
Strengths: This book is an easy read that presents issues for tweens of all cultures. Neva experiences several things that are relatable and age appropriate. The title is suitable for the storyline and the terms used in Neva’s “dictionary” are thought provoking as you read each chapter.
Weaknesses: There are no weaknesses, however you do wonder about the relationship with the parents. Although, it is not uncommon for children to be raised by their extended family both Neva and Clay seemingly needed their parents throughout the story. The physical presence of the parents would have added a different twist to the storyline.
Thoughts: I already recommended this book to a selected fourth grade class. They were eager to jot down the title when I placed emphasis on tween issues. They were also thrilled that the story takes place during the summer as we enter the season in real life.