A Place at the Table

HMH/Clarion. Aug. 2020. 336p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358116684.
Gr 5-7–Not only has Sara had to transfer from her small Islamic school to public school as a sixth grader, but Sara’s Pakistani parents are now making her attend the South Asian cooking class her mother is teaching after school. Elizabeth joins the cooking club to find new meals to add to her repertoire; she is often the one cooking for her brothers while her British mother suffers from depression and her Jewish American father travels extensively for work. As the girls work together to form a recipe for a cooking contest at school, they bond over their immigrant mothers taking their American citizenship tests. But their blossoming friendship is tested by their xenophobic classmates, none worse than Elizabeth’s best friend. Faruqi and Shovan have collaborated to create a thoughtful work where viewpoints alternate so readers can see the girls’ stories differently. The girls ask each other a lot of questions that are always answered, though sometimes with an adult tone that seems heavy handed from a sixth grader. The book focuses a bit more on Sara’s family and struggles, interspersed with her anger at Elizabeth and their classmates over their lack of acceptance and knowledge throughout the story. Both girls’ religions are discussed frequently. The authors continue to use food to help tell their story; the food descriptions are vivid and will make readers hungry, with included recipes.
VERDICT A solid story of unexpected friends coming together to break bread.

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