Review + Interview / Bella’s Recipe for Success

book-bellaBook: Bella’s Recipe for Success (2021)
Author: Ana Siqueira
Illustrator: Geraldine Rodriguez
Genre: Picture Book

Opening lines from the book …
I’m helping Abuela in the kitchen when … “I can play the piano with my eyes closed!” mi hermano brags.

MY REVIEW …

A beautifully-written book about perseverance! Poor Bella just wants to be good at something.

I love the connection with the grandmother: “We can always try again.” What a wonderful reminder. And that’s what Bella keeps doing, over and over as she tries to perfect the baking of polvorones. Of course, she has many disasters (hence the cross-out in the title), but … well, I won’t quite spoil it, but again the title is a little hint.

Love the Spanish and English throughout the text. And all the animal metaphors/similes are fun. There’s a recipe at the back so you too can try baking your own polvorones. I think I just might need to get my apron out. 🙂


INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR …

ana-photoFull disclosure: Author Ana Siqueira is one of my critique partners. And I am actually one of Bella’s book godmothers or aunties or something like that. Anyhow, that’s what it feels like when you get to see a book at the earliest stages (at a time before Bella was even named Bella) and to see this book in its final form. And yes, I remember all those revisions, Ana!

Here is my interview with the wonderful writer of this book

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you become a writer; where you’re from; that sort of thing.)
A: I’m from Brazil where I wrote and got two books published. One of them – A LUA NAMORADEIRA (THE FLIRTING MOON) got a prize from the Brazilian Academia de Letras. But this was a long time ago. I moved to this country in 1992 and then life happened and I stopped writing. I worked as an interpreter, a teacher, and a cafe owner. In 2018, I wrote a book for my 2nd-grade students based on the DUCK SONG video. I sold this book to TEACHER’S DISCOVERY and then, TA-DA, I got excited and decided to go back to writing. In 2019, I joined Storytellers Academy and some critique groups and I started my journey back to writing.

Q: What’s the best part about writing for children?
A: It’s so much fun writing, but it’s even more fun reading to them. It’s fun to hear them giggling or to reply to their questions. I can’t wait to get some more school visits.

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book?
A: This was inspired by my perfectionist daughter and many of my students. I also love reading and researching about #growthmindset and I think this is an important topic.

Q: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?
A: I have just restarted writing. Writing in Brazil in 1991 and writing here in 2019 are very different. I had to relearn writing picture books. I had to take many classes and do LOOOOTS of revisions. Thanks for always being willing to check one more revision. Hahaha.

Q: What’s the worst baking “disaster” you’ve had?
A: I enjoy cooking better than baking. But I just had a disaster when baking the polvorone recipe at the back of Bella’s book. Instead of vanilla, I put in anise and the cookie dough tasted horrible. My grandson and I laughed so much, it was worth it.

Q: What’s the first thing you baked as a child?
A: I remember being in a culinary class during my middle-grade years and baking some onion bread. I was a desastre there too. I cried so much slicing the onions. I dropped onions on the floor. I kept asking for more onions. But this is the only recipe I remember from this class. So making mistakes is a great way to really learn, right?

Q: Is there anything you’ve tried to make in the kitchen that still gives you trouble?
A: My husband loves a plate from Cuba called congri. It’s basically rice and beans cooked together. However, for some reason, sometimes my rice gets too sticky, sometimes it burns, sometimes it’s perfecto. I guess I have to keep on trying.

Q: This is your debut picture book. Explain what it’s like to finally hold this book in your hands?
A: It’s such a big emotion. OMG. You work so hard. And then… You can see it. You can hold it. You did it. Bella is almost like my child.

Q: Where can people find out more about you and your books?
A: Check my website – https://anafiction.com/
Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/SraSiqueira1307

Review / Measuring Up

Book: Measuring Up (2020)
Author: Lily LaMotte
Illustrator: Ann Xu
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Graphic Novel

Basic plot: Cici misses her grandmother, A-má, who lives all the way in Taiwan. When she sees a kids’ cooking contest, she hopes she has what it takes to win because that prize money would be perfect to buy that plane ticket for A-má.  During the contest, she’s teamed up with a girl named Miranda. Soon, Cici begins to doubt her ability to cook and turns to learn from watching the great Julia Child on TV. As one contestant after another is eliminated, Cici soon realizes that she’ll soon be competing against her teammate.

Opening lines from the book …
My life in Taiwan is sweet. My favorite is mango flavor but Siu-Lian and Siu-Khing always get Lychee. We never get tired of watching the panda… or running on the Dragon Bridge… but A-má is the best part.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS BOOK…

1) Cici is such a likable character! I love her connection to her grandmother and how she decides to do something about the fact that they live so far apart.

2) The cooking part of the story was really fun. Seeing Miranda and Cici come up with their amazing culinary delights made me hungry to do a taste test! And ditto for when Cici is experimenting with Julia Child’s recipes. 

3) I like the relationship that develops between Cici and Miranda. They don’t quite start off on the right foot. And, let’s face it, Miranda is a bit of a know-it-all. But Cici does take this as an opportunity to learn from her (because Miranda does actually know a lot about cooking). But in the end, Cici decides to take a risk that would go against some of Miranda’s “expertise”. I loved that Cici was able to see where her own “expertise” clicks in.

4) Now for the three judges! If you’ve seen any reality show that involves judges, you will know there’s always that one judge. In this case, it’s the bald one, Mr. Bonze. I loved his little snarky remarks, although I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of them. And nor did I want Cici to be criticized either! But as a reader, he did add a little spice and drama.

5) I loved how Cici’s mentor becomes TV’s Julia Child! The montage where Cici is trying to flip the potato pancakes is great. Courage and conviction!

6) Ultimately, I loved how Cici brings her A-má’s Taiwanese cooking into the story. While it’s nice to see Cici branch out with other foods, it was even nicer to see her embrace the simplicity of her heritage. And be able to come up with her own modifications to old recipes.

7) I thought the graphic novel format worked really well for this book.

THINGS THAT BOTHERED ME…

1) Not much to report here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Such a fun book! I won it in a giveaway contest by Completely Full Bookshelf! Yay! I really did enjoy it and would recommend it for anybody who enjoys watching those cooking shows or competitions.

 


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday