When I was in college, I took several classes in Asian cinema, all in a row. That year, I ate so many noodles, won tons and egg rolls, I couldn’t even count. Apparently, I am very susceptible to food suggestions. If I read about a delicious cupcake recipe (and there are plenty of them out there in books for children), I have to try it out. After reading Pat Mora’s Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings, I’m ready for a feast!
In fourteen haiku, Mora and illustrator Rafael López highlight fourteen foods native to the Americas, including vanilla, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate and cranberries. The haiku highlight the pleasure of the food item (Chocolate: “Brown magic melts on your tongue. / Happy, your eyes dance.”) while an informational insert gives the readers background material on the geographical origin and uses of the foodstuff. Rafael López’s illustrations feature children, adults and even some animals, of all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors.
To start off, this book is delightful. The energetic colors and whimsy of the illustrations marry well with the lighthearted poems. The haiku format make for easy reading, and this is a book that can be enjoyed by any age. The informational asides are enlightening without being too “teachy”. The whole effect is altogether mouthwatering.
The foods emphasized by Mora and López span North, Central and South America (though they do not stretch up into Canada). Mora explores foods’ roots in Native American culture, Mexico, the Aztecs and more. Occasional use of Spanish vocabulary roots the poems in a Hispanic realm. The dulces. Surprise!” (emphasis by the author).poem for Prickly Pear reads, “Red desert wonder. / Cactus fruit becomes syrup/ and
Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings received a starred review from Booklist, which called it an “inventive stew of food haiku” and highlighted López’s artwork: “From blueberries to prickly pears to corn, the acrylic-on-wood-panel illustrations burst with vivid colors and stylized Mexican flair.” Kirkus Reviews also laud López, saying “Lopez's vibrant, folklorish illustrations make the book a visual feast.”
For young foodies, there are many directions to go after reading this book of poetry. Cookbooks are plentiful, including books that highlight world cuisines. The PowerKids Press series Native Foods of Latin America highlight many of the same ingredients found in Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings, including chocolate and chiles. For chocoholics, Melissa Stewart’s No Monkeys, No Chocolate gives a humorous explanation of the harvesting process, highlighting simians’ role in the food chain.
This is a book I will enjoy sharing with my patrons, especially my youngsters. The bright colors and simple haiku will be perfect for capturing their attention.
Mora, Pat. Yum! ¡MmMm! ¡Qué Rico! Americas’ Sproutings. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2007. ISBN: 9781600608926