Zachary’s Dinnertime, a picture book for elementary aged children, written by Lara Levinson and illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright, highlights traditional meals from several different cultures.
Zachary, the main character, doesn’t like taking part in the daily preparation and clean up of his family’s dinners. He is also bored with having to prepare the same dishes day in and day out. Therefore, in a sudden flash of apparent rebellion, he decides to eat dinner at the houses of five different friends where, as a guest, he is certain he won’t have to help prepare the meal or clean up afterwards. During the next five days, Zachary is treated to Japanese, Mexican, Israeli, African, and Indian-American meals. After each meal away from home, Zachary discovers that, although each meal is uniquely delicious, he misses participating in his own family’s meal preparations. And, in the end, he invites his friends to enjoy dinner at his house.
I appreciated the colorful illustrations of families enjoying their meals together. If I didn’t know anything about the food preferences of the cultures depicted in this book, I would be able to learn a little bit about typical Indian-American foods, for example; this information could motivate me to find out more.
If I were to read Zachary’s Dinnertime to my grade 4 students, I can anticipate some of their questions about the structure of this story. For example, my students might say that it’s not clear how he can skip his family dinners to go to his friends’ family suppers instead. Did his parents give him permission? Is this a technique the author uses so that Zachary can then tell about what his diverse group of friends typically eat for dinner, so different from what his own family enjoys? Or, is Zachary so bored with having to do chores (or is it that he is bored of having to prepare the same foods every night?) that he daydreams about enjoying the colorful meals at his friends’ houses?
Like my students, this reader is confused when the narrator tells us about Zachary not liking to do chores at home and then quickly jumps to Zachary’s determination to skip his own family’s dinners altogether to go to a different friend’s house instead. An uninformed reader might get the impression that these are the only kinds of foods these families eat. The illustrations depict nuclear families, yet a quick scan of any classroom would suffice to confirm that this is not the reality of most of our students today.
You might think I’m being nit picky here. Perhaps. After all, this is one book among many about multicultural families. True. That’s why I would make sure to pair Zachary’s Dinnertime with other books that help students understand the complexity of different cultures and peoples.
In conclusion, Zachary’s Dinnertime is a pleasant introduction to different cultural traditions, particularly around food. I would follow up this book with stories that can serve as talking points about more authentic multicultural traditions and experiences.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
Current Sponsors: MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.
2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal Bowe, Gokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press
2018 Author Sponsors
Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and MFL Publishing Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham Author Natasha Yim
We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/
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