Author Kevin Noble Maillard approaches this celebration of FRY BREAD with a focus on the senses and the history behind the favorite staple. Born of necessity when native tribes were forcibly moved, able to take little with them, fry bread was created with the items given by the U.S. government: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and sometimes cornmeal. This picture book, however, celebrates the process and family-tradition of making and eating fry bread. The joyful and stunningly detailed illustrations Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal has created ensure that all readers come away from the book knowing that Fry Bread is most definitely US.
The picture book is divided into sections headed with a simple statement about fry bread: Fry Bread is Food, Fry Bread is Sound, Fry Bread is Shape, Fry Bread is Time, and so on. Each section details ingredients and techniques and family time spent making and eating fry bread. The descriptions are vibrant and sensory, and the vocabulary is appropriate without being too simple. Each page is a nugget of information about fry bread that ties together culture and history and family traditions for many Native Americans.
The illustrations connect beautifully with the text, and Martinez-Neal drew inspiration from Maillard’s personal photos and multicultural history. Centered on a Native American grandmother, the picture book shows her leading a group of children through mini and molding and frying the bread. The images of celebrating the making and eating of the bread moves into learning about history and culture and values, all connected to the tradition of process of the fry bread. The multicultural depiction of the children and adults celebrates a rich heritage and the vast connections across nations.
The book ends with a recipe for fry bread and an expanded explanation of each earlier page in Fry Bread. The sections are fabulously informative, and while they are aimed at caregivers, not the preschool readers, they can definitely be shared with all ages. Mentions of particular details in the illustrations will also have readers going back to search for names and items discussed throughout the book.