In March, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators awarded its 2022 Golden Kite awards, given annually to recognize excellence in children’s literature.
- The winner in the Picture Book Text category was “Eyes That Kiss in the Corners” (2021, HarperCollins Books for Young Readers, written by Joanna Ho, illustrated by Dung Ho, ages 4-8), a powerful book previously reviewed in this column.
- The honor for Picture Book Text was awarded to “Soul Food Sunday,” (2021, Abrams Books for Young Readers, written by Winsome Bingham, illustrated by C.G. Esperanza, ages 2-6).
As everyone gathers for soul food at Granny’s on Sunday, we meet a family of “Mommas and Poppas, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, and a whole lot of cousins.”
The other children sprint off to play, but our narrator follows his Granny into the kitchen.
It’s time for him to learn.
Donning his grandpa’s chef jacket, he watches Granny show him how to grate the cheese for mac ‘n’ cheese.
“Unless mac ‘n’ cheese is on the table, it’s not Soul Food Sunday,” she tells him.
Working hard, he grates until the cheeses stack high like a mountain.
“Good job, baby,” Granny says. “That’s the best grated cheese I’ve seen in all my life.”
Lessons in preparing greens and meats follow, each accompanied by sounds, sensory details and language play, along with watercolor illustrations bursting with color, playfulness and joy.
The story ends when our character decides to make something special to add to the dinner — something he can do all by himself. It is welcomed.
“Unless sweet tea is on the table, it’s not Soul Food Sunday,” Granny says.
This satisfying read is followed by notes by the author and illustrator telling of their own experiences cooking and eating soul food.
- The Golden Kite winner in the category of Picture Book Illustration was “King of Ragtime: The Story of Scott Joplin,” (2021, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, written and illustrated by Stephen Costanza, ages 4-10).
Lyrical free-verse text begins the book, setting scene and tone for the story: “In the valley of the Red River, where the soil was as rich as most folks were poor, four states sat side by side like colors on a quilt sewn from cotton picked by black hands, brown hands, tired and worn — but, oh! How they clapped at night as voices lifted to the stars.”
Scott Joplin, son of newly freed slaves, loved the music as his parents plucked banjos and sang.
“Music filled the air like a breeze from Alabama.”
When he saw his first piano in a home where his mother worked, he sat down and “felt the smooth keys dance beneath his fingers” and began to make up songs.
The story follows Scott as his parents found him a piano and lessons, and he sewed together tunes from gospel, work songs and more. With his left hand keeping the beat “OOM-pah, OOM-pah” while his “right hand soared, free as a bird,” he played a new kind of music called ragtime.
The story evolves through struggles until he wrote the song which made him famous, “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Colorful gouache collage illustrations create a stunning kaleidoscope of color, shape and design in a book which, as the rhythmic text describes Joplin’s music, is “a patchwork of sounds and colors.”
The honor for Picture Book Illustration was awarded to “Wonder Walkers” (2021, Nancy Paulson Books, written and illustrated by Micha Archer, ages 2-6), also previously reviewed in this column.