Tuesday, February 25, 2020

30. Fry Bread

Fry Bread. Kevin Noble Maillard. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. 2019. 42 pages. [Source: Library] [picture book; poetry]

First sentence: Fry Bread is food./ Flour, salt, water/ Cornmeal, baking powder/ Perhaps milk, maybe sugar/ All mixed together in a big bowl.

Premise/plot: A Native American family celebrates a favorite, traditional food in this picture book written in poems. Fry Bread is Food; Fry Bread is Shape; Fry Bread is Sound; Fry Bread is Colorful; Fry Bread is Flavor; Fry Bread is Time; Fry Bread is Art; Fry Bread is History; Fry Bread is Place; Fry Bread is Nation; Fry Bread is Everything; Fry Bread is Us; Fry Bread is You.

My thoughts: The first five poems can be read literally. I get the sense that the poems are actually describing something real as opposed to figurative, symbolic, Artsy. The poems are rooted in the five senses. There is something special about these poems.

But the poems progressively become less literal and more symbolic. For some readers perhaps this shift becomes a grand magical thing—bring on the praise and acclaim. The book has transcended the ordinary and evolved into ART.

Fry Bread stands in for every native nation, every native tribe, every native tradition, every native art, every native family, every native individual.

I will be the first to admit that poetry isn’t quite my cup of tea. I like my poems easy to understand, a bit on the literal side. There are exceptions, of course there are, poems can transport readers emotionally even if you don’t grasp everything. You don’t know how the magic was done—just that it was. I didn’t love, love this one. The first five poems, yes, I could get on board. But by the end ... I wasn’t loving it.

It is not my place to be offended or to give my approval. But I didn’t really get the reducing of an entire ethnic group—groups in fact, since it’s a large, massive list of native tribes and nations—to one thing. Nor does it quite seem right that an individual could be reduced to just one thing. A person is more than one thing, especially when that one thing is food. I know I am probably overthinking and being too literal. But still. What is cute and praise worthy in this award winner might be taken too far if you start assigning food representatives to other ethnic groupings and cultures.

Overthinking can happen when I read....

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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