Two picture books inspired by real-life community organizations demonstrate the great things we can achieve when we all pitch in.
Based on Jillian Tamaki’s experience of volunteering at a community kitchen in Brooklyn, Our Little Kitchen follows a mother and child who help a group of volunteers prepare and serve a meal for their community.
As the story begins, everyone springs into action to assemble ingredients from a garden as well as the kitchen’s cupboards and refrigerator. The group’s leader heats up day-old bread until it’s “soft and warm, as good as new!” then ponders what to do with canned beans for the third week in a row. Once the cooking starts, the pages burst with onomatopoeias in huge, sprawling letters (“glug glug glug” and “chop chop chop chop chop”). When the leader shouts “FIFTEEN MINUTES!” in a spiky speech bubble that nearly fills the whole page, the energy and urgency is palpable.
Every page sizzles and pops as Tamaki captures the kitchen’s hustle and bustle. Lively, detailed visuals abound, often depicted from unusual perspectives such as extreme close-ups and overhead angles. Even the book’s endpapers feature illustrated recipes. Tamaki’s thoughtful author’s note is the icing on this treat: “We are often told that a single person can change the world. Just think what many of us can accomplish—with our bodies, voices, votes, and hearts—together.” Our Little Kitchen is an inspiring call to action that will warm readers’ hearts and tummies.
Cooking a community dinner can be a haphazard, improvised affair, but stitching a community quilt is a measured and precise endeavor. Such contrasting processes make The All-Together Quilt the perfect counterpoint to Our Little Kitchen.
Lizzy Rockwell has more than 30 books to her name, but The All-Together Quilt is especially personal. Her author’s note describes her involvement with a Connecticut-based quilting group called Peace by Piece. Senior citizens, kids from the neighborhood and adult volunteers like Rockwell meet two afternoons each week at a senior housing facility to stitch. Their quilts hang in public libraries, a community college and a children’s museum.
Zeroing in on small acts of collaboration between kids and adults, Rockwell depicts the group making a quilt from start to finish. Her images are informative as well as narrative and include labeled diagrams of sewing tools and illustrations of classic quilt blocks. There’s even an explanation of the origins of each fabric used, from an African wax print to a Scottish plaid. The strong how-to component may encourage young readers to learn to make their own quilts.
The book’s communal spirit is epitomized in a glorious spread that shows a diverse group of people of all ages gathered around a quilting frame, working together to create something beautiful. “It takes a long time to quilt the quilt,” the text reads. “Everybody lends a hand.” The All-Together Quilt is an exemplary, colorful and moving blend of fact and fiction.