Review by Elizabeth Leung
Tundra, Penguin Random House, 20 August 2019
36 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-431-1
Ages 3-7, Grades Pre K-2
Anyone who has ever found it challenging to pick their favourite of something—whether it’s a book, movie, colour, or food—will resonate with Kelsey Garrity-Riley’s protagonist in Frankie’s Favorite Food. When the kids of Sunview Elementary prepared to dress up as their favourite food for the school’s end of year show, brown-skinned but ethnically unclear Frankie can’t decide what his favourite is—he loves all of them.
However, unlike so many stories about school plays that go horribly awry, the stakes are low in this heartwarming and supportive environment where Frankie is given multiple avenues to thrive. Ms. Mellon, his teacher, puts Frankie’s food enthusiasm to use, making him the costume manager. This enables him to encourage his classmates with food-related puns from backstage, which is a great way to introduce wordplay to the reader. The gouache and coloured-pencil illustrations mimic the comforting atmosphere of acceptance the book projects and further depict a multicultural school and dishes.
Although it does predict predominantly Western meals and dishes, Frankie’s Favorite Food can also be a starting point for discussing the connections between food and culture as well as introducing new types of cuisine to young readers. For a calmer read-aloud in the classroom or home.
Elizabeth Leung is a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Children’s Literature Program at UBC. In addition to editing Young Adulting, she is a teaching assistant for introduction to writing comics and is currently writing a middle grade space opera about sentient AI and teenagers with dyslexia. Follow her on twitter @ezlabeth.