Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bait for lunch by K. A. Okagaki, illustrated by Ryan Shaw

Gilroy is excited about spending some time with his Grandpa while his parents are on a trip....until he sees his Grandpa's cooking. Octopus? Miso soup? Squid-kabobs? Those aren't food! He's even more upset when his grandfather brings all these weird foods to school. But when he sees his friends' excited reactions, he realizes it's not so bad to try new things and talks Grandpa into a compromise.

There's a good basic story here, not just about trying new things but about a cultural and generation gap, since Grandpa's new, weird foods, appear to be traditional Asian edibles (Japanese maybe? I don't know enough to name the culture). The other students' unanimously positive reactions to Gilroy's grandfather's unfamiliar foods is a little unrealistic - they all want to try them and are enthusiastic, but Gilroy's stubborn refusal to compromise until the very end is realistically portrayed. The writing is a little choppy in places, but generally flows well and kids will enjoy the cartoon illustrations of a classroom of caricatured kids and exotic foods.

My main complaint about this book is the odd format. It's a large paperback, almost the size of a picturebook paperback. It's not going to fit on most juvenile fiction shelves and being such a thin paperback will vanish without a trace if shelved there. It's also too big to be on the easy reader shelf and it's not a picturebook. The author has a good sense of plot, character, and dialogue, the illustrations are kid-friendly and advance the story, but the format is going to keep this out of most library collections and limit children's access to the story. I will be keeping an eye on the author to see if she keeps working on her writing and maybe finds a publisher who works with more traditional formats.

ISBN: 978-0981868585; Published July 2009 by 4RV Publishing; Review copy provided by publisher

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