Our Little Kitchen

Our Little Kitchen
written and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books, 2020
978-1-77306-262-4 (hc) $19.95
978-1-77306-263-1 (eBook) $16.95
for Preschool to Grade 2

Fiction | Cooking and Food | Community | Belonging

In this warm and inviting picture book, a community kitchen bustles with mealtime preparations. As volunteers of all ages arrive, they tie on aprons, roll up their sleeves and get right to work. Resourceful and self-sufficient, they waste nothing and eat well: “All we need is around us, we just need to look … ” Using ingredients they pick fresh from their garden (“Tomatoes are ripe!”), scrounge from the refrigerator (“I found some carrots!”) and receive in-kind (like day-old bread and cans of beans), the collective whips up a delicious spread for their appreciative neighbours.

Jillian Tamaki’s distinctively fluid, detailed illustrations are a visual feast. Against colourful background shades of celery greens and soft buttery yellows, many concurrent conversations organically bubble up. When the small kitchen really gets cooking, “delicious music” rises from the well-orchestrated chaos to the tune of “glug glug glug” and “CHOP CHOP CHOP.”

Preparing a meal together builds belonging. The camaraderie amongst the kitchen crew is natural and realistic, with slice-of-life dialogue throughout, like the crew leader’s pep talk (“Two minutes left, let’s WRAP IT UP”), a volunteer’s honest appraisal of her own culinary skills (“Well, it’s not perfect but it’s the best I could do …”), and the no-nonsense dictum dished out (“Those who don’t cook don’t get to complain”). Nothing is artificial. When the doors open and a diverse group of hungry neighbours walk in, bodies and souls are nourished.

In true community-building spirit, Our Little Kitchen captures the magic that happens when individuals come together to talk, learn from each other, and participate. Visual recipes for vegetable soup and apple crumble are included on the endpapers and are also perfect for savouring and sharing.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, Ontario.   

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