"Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down" by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Little, Brown, ages 6-9, 40 pages, $17)
It's easy to forget the court decisions, sit-ins and bus boycotts that pushed our nation toward integration. An excellent refresher comes from Andrea Davis Pinkney in her well-conceived picture book about one of the first sit-ins, at a Woolworth's lunch counter on Feb. 1, 1960, in Greensboro, N.C.
She fills her calm, straightforward free verse with wordplay and food metaphors, beginning with the four college students — David, Joseph, Franklin and Ezell — who ask for "a doughnut and coffee with cream on the side." Her repetition of this phrase emphasizes her theme: "Combine black with white to make sweet justice."
The second day, the waitress reminds the students, "Whites only," but they are "treated like a hole in a doughnut — invisible." A police officer comes and leaves because there is no crime.
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Pinkney weaves in references to Martin Luther King Jr.' s teachings of non-violence, which appear in big, bold type. When the white folks dish out "a big dose of hatred — served up hot and heaping" — the students remain calm. "Practicing peace while others showed hatred was tougher than any school test."
Brian Pinkney's free-form illustrations in watercolors and India ink energize this understated retelling of the sit-in. Older readers can pore over the author's annotated civil rights timeline.
"A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family" by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (Voice, 292 pages, $14.99 paper)
This memoir is less controversial, more inspirational than Amy Chua’s fiery book on Chinese parenting. Singapore-raised and American college-educated, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan rushed down the career path, her father’s voice in her head, before pulling up short with a longing for her past. Living on bagels, ramen and hamburgers, Tan realized she had become a food exile.
Memories of the Teochew (a Chinese ethnic group in Singapore) recipes her aunts and grandmother made (lotus-seed-filled mooncakes, duck every which way, spring-roll-like popiah rolls, bird’s nest soup) crowded her days in New York City, where she had lived for 17 years.
Tan spent a year collecting the fusion recipes — the blend of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian — that make up the comfort food of Singapore.
Tan’s “tiger” qualities reveal themselves in her fierce determination to draw her past into her present, to slow down, to learn how to make the food of her childhood.