Reviewed by Ashleigh (13), Alexis (19), Charlie (17), Langston (13), and Michael (18)
There is no doubt about it–Native children’s literature and YA literature, fiction and nonfiction, is having a moment. Every time we turn around, there’s another wonderful book at the library or the publication details are announced or there’s an exciting blog or interview. Of course, we feel kinship with all Native books meant to lift us up, and give others authentic representation of every nation and culture. Some Indigenous authors are distant cousins–like Cynthia Leitich Smith, who is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, and recognized this by including a Seminole character in RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME. But when we first heard about FRY BREAD and Kevin Noble Maillard, that was something else. When we discovered he is a member of the Seminole Nation, Mekusukey band and African American, that was something else altogether.
Ashleigh, 13: I keep reading this book, over and over. My mom has read it — by herself and then aloud to me and Vi, showing us the illustrations like a librarian at story time, lol. We all love it. Even my auntie who came over saw a few pages and said, “That book is done right!”
Alexis, 19: Let’s explain how the book is organized. There are twelve (or maybe thirteen) poems that begin, “FRY BREAD IS…” Most of them are two-page spreads. Each one corresponds to a section in the back matter, which, unlike most books, seems essential to read. Here is an example, FRY BREAD IS FOOD.
Charlie, 17: That one seems pretty obvious. But look closer. Because some of those ingredients aren’t standard for every fry bread cook. “Flour, salt, water/ Cornmeal, baking powder/ Perhaps milk, maybe sugar.” Mr. Kevin says this in the back matter:
Perhaps the use of cornmeal in my recipe is a Southern influence that reflects the blending of African American and Native American cultures in family.
Oh yass! How did that get out of my head and into a book?
Langston, 13: Right from the beginning, there are all these different looking kids. That one has blond hair and the other has tight cornrows. It’s surprised me. I mean, I haven’t looked at all the books you have…
Michael, 18: It’s different for real. I couldn’t help wish one was in a wheelchair like me. Because of that, I couldn’t feel the full embrace like the rest of you. I still think it’s an amazing book. The kind of thing Indigo would have liked and we keep asking for.
Alexis: In terms of intersectionality. I have to say, I’ve loved many of the books we’ve reviewed. But sometimes it seems like the publishing norm of female, cisgender, straight, abled, neurotypical writer/MC that white women fall into is also a trap for Native women who don’t have other marginalizations (including race). I understand wanting to write the book you needed to see as a kid. But it’s different times, and if you hold the mirror out toward us, millennials, it’s crazy diverse. This book honestly reflects that, without feeling like it’s appropriating anyone’s identity. That’s an accomplishment. Because some little kids just seem non-binary, it works on that level too. Continue reading.
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard
Published by Roaring Brook Press on October 22, 2019
Genres: American Indians, First Nations, Metis, Inuit
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2
Review Source: Indigo's Bookshelf: Voices of Native Youth
Buy at Powell's Books
Publisher's Synopsis: Winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book MedalA 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner“A wonderful and sweet book . . . Lovely stuff.” —The New York Times Book Review
Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal. Fry bread is food. It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.