Award-Winning AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2015 Books Diversified - Rainbow Colours of Literature GB Challenges It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Cherokee Strawberries, a Maiden’s Cazuela, One Green Apple and a Chinese Dinner that Cooked Itself – Picturebooks that Celebrate Diversity in Meals and Cultural Traditions


Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the rest of the year.


Here is the sign up page and the July-August linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of The Dark Wild by Piers Torday courtesy of Pansing Books.


Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.


Of course we can not talk about multicultural titles without exploring food food food! These four picturebooks are as diverse as you can possibly get: from a Cherokee legend about the first strawberries to a Chinese folktale about a dinner that cooked itself, from a Mexican’s cazuela to an Arab American’s green apples. Dig in!

IMG_2316The First Strawberries

Retold by: Joseph Bruchac Illustrated by: Anna Vojtech
Published by: Puffin Books, 1993
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This story is based on a Cherokee legend that dates back to the beginning of time with the first man and woman who lived together when the world was still new.


The couple had their first quarrel when the man came back from hunting one afternoon and realized that the woman has not prepared their meal yet as she passed the time picking beautiful flowers from the fields. In his anger, the man said unkind words that hurt the woman’s feelings and made her leave.


The man immediately felt sorry and ran after the woman but couldn’t catch up with her. The Sun took pity on the contrite husband and attempted to help him out by shining its rays brightly upon the berries in the woman’s path to slow her down. While the woman pretty much ignored all the other fruits that she sees on the path, it was the sight of the bright red strawberries that slowed her down. Since then strawberries signified this sense of togetherness, kindness, and mutual respect among the Cherokees.


While the paintings were luminous and the story quite riveting, I would have appreciated an Author’s/Illustrator’s Note that provides more information about the legend and the kind of research that Joseph Bruchac or Anna Vojtech did to provide greater authenticity to the story.

The Dinner That Cooked ItselfIMG_2304

Written by: J. C. Hsyu Illustrated by: Kenard Pak
Published by: Flying Eye Books, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book is based on an ancient Chinese folktale about an unassuming and hardworking farmer named Tuan who was adopted by his kind neighbours when he lost his parents as a young child.


When he was old enough to marry, his adoptive parents hired a matchmaker to find the ideal wife for him. It was interesting to see how the matchmaker dismissed potential ‘candidates’ or ‘matches’ based on the year the women were born and their compatibility with Tuan who was born in the Year of the Dog or Tuan’s name which contained the character for Earth. As the matchmaker seemed to run out of options, Tuan stayed out later than usual one night and found a large stone which turned out to be a huge snail which he brought home and fed with succulent cabbage leaves. The next day he was so surprised to find his dinner laid out and prepared for him.


The same thing happened in the following evenings. He thought it was one of the women that he was being matched with or his adoptive mother, but they all denied doing this for him. As the dishes become even more lavish, Tuan came home early to find out who was cooking his dinner for him:


Who the mysterious chef was, I shall leave for you to discover. Similar to most picture books published by Flying Eye Books, this one did not disappoint in terms of its gorgeous art. However, I felt that there was something missing in the story – I suppose I am a sucker for happy endings, especially when it comes to folktales when seemingly anything can happen. Teachers would be happy to note that a list of Chinese characters can be found at the end of the book.

IMG_2296The Cazuela That The Farm Maiden Stirred

Written by: Samantha R. Vamos Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez
Published by: Charlesbridge, 2011
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This is a clever tale that follows the cumulative This is the house that Jack built format. The story begins simply enough with the pot that that the farm maiden stirred, followed by the butter that went into the cazuela that the farm maiden stirred; then the goat that churned the cream to make the mantequilla that went into the cazuela that the farm maiden stirred, and so on.


Before the reader knows it, there are Mexican words thrown into the narrative in such an ingenious way that a lightbulb moment makes one realize what Samantha R. Vamos just did. Instead of writing this in bilingual text, Vamos accomplished something even more intuitive by inserting the words so cleverly, one can not help but wonder why we don’t have more of these kinds of picture books.


A recipe for Arroz Con Leche or rice pudding provides the final touch to this delicious picture book along with the Glossary of Terms at the end of the book. This book is told with such panache that the unfamiliar words do not seem gratuitious at all but is embedded into the narrative in a meaningful way. The art of Rafael Lopez is also filled with vibrant colours and life making this a perfect picture book for read aloud.

One Green AppleIMG_2311

Written by: Eve Bunting Illustrated by: Ted Lewin
Published byClarion Books, 2006
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

It is Farah’s second day in a new school in her new country. She is unfamiliar with the English language which makes it difficult for her to understand her teachers and connect with her schoolmates. Today is special though as the entire class is heading off somewhere – fruit picking!


On their way to the farm, Farah becomes instantly aware of how different she is from the rest of the students who all seem to know each other:

My jeans and T-shirt look like theirs, but my dupatta covers my head and shoulders. I have not seen anyone else wearing a dupatta, though all the girls and women in my home country do.


I also like how the language barrier has been explored using Farah’s voice, making the reader imagine how it must be like for Farah to be so voiceless in a country of foreign tongues:

I want to say, “I understand. It’s not that I am stupid. It is just that I am lost in this new place.” But I don’t know how to tell her.

This field trip to the farm ends with an apple cider in a cup, a new tentative “outside-myself” word uttered by Farah, and shared smiles among children who may be different but may just be friends after all:


Ted Lewin’s illustrations seem like water-coloured photographs, as they also explore depth and perspective. My favourite image though is that of Farah looking out to the reader as seen in the image above with a mischievous smile on her lips. This story provides a sensitive portrayal of what it must be like walking in Farah’s skin without attempting to provide a utopian quick fix but a simple apple in one’s hand offered in a gesture of welcome and the promise of friendship.

Currently Reading...

I was quite productive last week as I finished reading three books!

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver, Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan (as beautiful as everyone says it is), The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew.

This week, I hope to read these lovelies:


Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel – for my Saturday Night Out for Book-Geeks Book Club (SNOB-Geeks).


Malay Sketches by Alfian Sa’at – this is for my book club at my institution: GatheringReaders at NIE.


The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness into Flowers by Alice Walker.


The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred: NCBLA – Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts (2012), Pura Belpré Award Nominee for Illustration (2012)

One Green Apple: Winner of Arab American Book Award 

#AWBRead2015 Update: 55-56 (35)

11 comments on “[Monday Reading] Cherokee Strawberries, a Maiden’s Cazuela, One Green Apple and a Chinese Dinner that Cooked Itself – Picturebooks that Celebrate Diversity in Meals and Cultural Traditions

  1. I’m glad I had breakfast before reading your post! I love how these picture books bring together food and culture from around the world.


  2. You always offer such great variety on your reviews. Thanks! Loved Cazuela. Totally wish there was a dinner that cooked itself (curious as to who was doing it!). And need to actually READ One Green Apple. I know we have it at school.


  3. Yay for One Green Apple! Thanks for also sharing another Cherokee tale that is new to me.


  4. I do love seeing the beauty of these illustrations, Myra, will especially look for The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred. I’m happy you enjoyed Echo. I did, too!


  5. I have been looking for middle grade books with Muslim characters. Most of my Somali students are now strong readers, and they don’t want picture books (several years ago, we were still getting students directly from Somalia). Now our immigrant population has an increasing number of students from Bhutan, and I haven’t seen any books at all about that culture! You always put together great lists!


  6. I love this list of great picture books from many cultures. I’m always interested in Native American stories because my grandmother was Menominee. After reading your comments I looked up Joseph Bruchac. He sounds like an amazing individual!


  7. I love the title “The Dinner That Cooked Itself”. Oh, if only we could find a way to make that happen!!!


  8. Food definitely says something about a culture. I love the various style of illustrations.


  9. The Dinner that Cooked itself looks really interesting – and I see that it is illustrated by Pak who I think is very talented. Great collection of books.


  10. Pingback: [BHE 183] Singapore Library Warehouse Sale 2015 | Gathering Books

  11. Pingback: More Piñata Love! A Bilingual Cumulative Tale – Gathering Books

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