YASMIN THE CHEF – Cooking up Creative Problem Solving (Cybils Nominee)

Apologies to my reader base over the next few months – It’s going to be a lot of Cybils Nominees for Chapter Books and Easy Readers, a lot of the time. Today we have YASMIN THE CHEF by Saadia Faruqi (illustrated by Hatem Aly).

Loveable, enthusiastic Yasmin is back, and her family is getting ready to host a party! She’s looking forward to music, friends, and staying up late.

She helps Baba (her dad) clean and tries to help Mama (her mom) cook. Until she discovers that nothing in the kithen is quite right for her:

“Why does Pakistani food have to be so spicy or sour or messy?”

Of course the solution is fruit-and-chicken kebab, and the family is able to laugh about adding spice.

No Longer A Caveat

Earlier I included a caveat that I was disappointed this book is shorter than MEET YASMIN! , which my seven-year-old had selected for her birthday.

Thank you to the person who pointed out to me that MEET YASMIN! as well as YASMIN IN CHARGE (which includes Yasmin the Chef) are actually bind-up books that contain four Yasmin stories each.

At the end of the day, I was complaining about Not Enough Yasmin, and I’ll be adding YASMIN IN CHARGE to our bookshelves. So that’s what I think of this series!

Loved

At 25 pages of text, divided into three chapters, YASMIN THE CHEF as a standalone has the readability of a picture book with the look and feel of a chapter book.  

Faruqi’s (general) format of writing easy readers and rolling them up into chapter books, is a brilliant way to ease transitioning or un-confident readers into longer books.

Backmatter is amazing:

  • Questions at the end to get readers talking about life skills for any kid – creative problem-solving, honoring traditions, and managing bad feelings.
  • Urdu dictionary of some of the words used in the text (though mostly-sufficient context clues are given).
  • Age-appropriate fun facts about Pakistan
  • Recipe for rainbow fruit kebabs (instructing the child to use adult help).

Written by Pakistani American writer/interfaith activist/cultural sensitivity trainer Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Egyptian-born Hatem Aly (who illustrated THE INQUISITOR’S TALE by Adam Gidwitz, “which won the Newberry Honor and other awards, despite Hatem’s drawings of a farting dragon,” Yasmin is a legit #ownvoices character.

Yasmin’s Pakistani American identity is of course present in the story, but as an incidental. The plot driver is once again Yasmin’s charming and bubbly personality and age-appropriate situations that any child would face.  (Including “too much spice” is a concern limited to many varieties of first-generation-American-born tastebuds).  

Readers will look forward to more adventures with Yasmin.  

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