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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Belly, Happy Smile, written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Harcourt, Thomas Allen, 2009. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"In the kitchen I say hello to Chef Ben. There is so much steam, I can hardly see him. 'Hi, Louie - is that you?' he says."

Louie loves to visit his grandfather, who owns a Chinese restaurant. The hustle and bustle of food preparation is a perfect interlude before they can take the time to eat. Louie visits all the workers and admires their work, their food and eagerly anticipates the meal that he and his grandfather will have together. When it arrives, it's his favorite, as usual. Very different from what his grandfather orders, but tasty just the same and much appreciated by both Louie and his friend Franklin, who is there for dinner with his family. With happy tummies, and equally happy smiles, Louie and Franklin finish their Friday night meal with a fortune cookie.

Rachel Isadora's collage art is stunning. The strong colors and patterns of the papers she uses add depth and warmth to the setting. The bold colored fish, the dramatic Chinese lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and the delicious foods add to the appeal for all readers. I know a few whose favorite page will be the paper dragon, hung above Louie's table to bring him good luck. Makes me want to head right out to get my own plateful of chow mein, shrimp and rice! MMMM!

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