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Fry Bread

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Fry Bread Book Poster Image
Lyrical tale shows role of special food in family, culture.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of facts about fry bread -- its ingredients, how it's cooked, when it's eaten. But also some Native American history ("The long walk, the stolen land"), a list of U.S. states where fry bread is eaten (Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Delaware, Georgia, Oaklahoma, Colorado, California), and a list of the Native American Nations that eat fry bread: "Abenaki, Apache, Arapahoe/ Ojibwe, Onondaga, Oglala Sioux/ Naragansett, Navajo, Mipmuc/ Seminole, Shoshone, Sac & Fox/ Hundreds and hundreds of tribes." An Author's Note gives fuller explanations of each of the topics in the main story -- about the ingredients, shape, sound, color, flavor, etc. of fry bread -- that draw from the author's own family memories. There's also a complete recipe for "Kevin's Fry Bread."

Positive Messages

Fry bread brings us together. "We are still here/ Elder and young/ Friend and neighbor/ We strengthen each other/ To learn, change, and survive." There's not just one way to make fry bread -- you can create your own recipe. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The diverse kids who are depicted are cheerful, helpful, and respctful. The elders are kind and patient, sharing stories of history and family. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by Kevin Noble Maillard, highlights the importance of a certain food in generations of a family and in the culture they share. With spare text and warm illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, the author shows that fry bread is not just food but also art, history, a sense of place, and more. "Fry bread is us." The characters are diverse, with many different skin and hair colors and ages represented.

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What's the story?

FRY BREAD: A NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILY STORY shows an elder preparing fry bread and a diverse group of kids gathered around her and other grown-ups helping prepare and then enjoying this cultural dish. Accompanying spare text highlights, in just three-to-five-line chunks, what fry bread means to members of that family: Fry bread is food, fry bread is sound ("The skillet clangs on the stove... the bubbles sizzle and pop"), fry bread is color, flavor, time ("Moments together/ With family and friends"), history, place, nation, and more. There's also the author's recipe for fry bread and added details and refelctions about the topics in the main body of the text in an Author's Note.

Is it any good?

This warm look at a certain dish a family shows its larger cultural and historical significance and celebrates its role in connecting people through time. The spare text is sensual and evocative, capturing details like the sound of the sizzle in the pan as the puffy bread cooks and describing its color, "Light like snow and cream/ Warm like rays of sun."

Fry Bread can spark a discussion of what heritage foods your family eats and what recipes have been handed down for generations. It also doesn't shy away from the painful parts of of Native American history: "The long walk, the stolen land/ Strangers in our own world/ With unknown food/ We made new recipes/ From what we had." It's a story of resilience and joy. "Fry bread is us/ We are still here."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how important fry bread is to the family and their culture in Fy Bread: A Native American Family Story. What foods are important in your family? Are they everyday foods or foods you eat only on holidays or special occasions?

  • The book says "Fry bread is sound" and "Fry bread is shape," and "Fry bread is color." What food does your family eat that has its own special sound, shape, and color? 

  • How does food help tell the history of a people? Are there things your family eats that your ancestors have eaten for hundreds of years? What stories have you heard about them?

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