Dumplings & grilled cheese star in new children’s books by local authors

As a restaurant writer, I’m always looking for thoughtful gifts for the kids in my life that encourage them to break new ground, try new foods, and hopefully learn something along the way. Often these gifts come in the form of books.

Coincidentally, there are two such books on the list, in which local authors have not only harnessed their love of food but also valuable lessons about community, diversity and self-confidence.

It’s a joyous moment when Sylvia wakes up to find it’s Dumpling Day at her apartment building. She makes her way to the stairwell, where she catches glimpses of sautéed garlic, simmering ginger and braised tomatoes on a stovetop…

And so her day begins. From Kreplach and Khinkali to Johnny Cakes and Jiao Zi, Sylvia and her friends take a journey around the world through food, discovering and celebrating the unique flavors and techniques their families use to prepare their beloved dumpling recipes.

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Creating intersections between food and culture comes naturally to Milwaukee-based author Francie Dekker. She worked as a youth gardener and nutritionist for many years. As the author of the quarterly Kids’ Table column for Edible Milwaukee, she explored the intersections of gardening, food and culture in children’s lives.

She does the same in her debut picture book, Our World of Dumplings, a book that takes readers on a culinary journey of discovery and community building through the power of food.

Francie DekkerX

Dekker’s book, aimed at young readers between the ages of four and eight, not only showcases the diversity of dumplings enjoyed around the globe, but also clearly illustrates the power of food to bring people together to celebrate their differences.

Would you like to find out more? The Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., is hosting an afternoon book talk with Dekker on Saturday, September 24 at 4:00 p.m. Registration for the event is free and can be completed online. Autographed copies of her book can also be ordered from Boswell.

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Dekker is also available for school visits where she offers interactive presentations focused on the power of connections through food, goal setting and more.

Despite being made from the same ingredients as the other grilled cheese sandwiches in Griddleville, Grillie never felt like it belonged. Their peers all seemed to have a purpose, whether it was dunking it in bowls of tomato soup or serving as an accompaniment to a unique side dish. But not Grillie. So she makes the decision to leave Griddleville in search of more.

Told from the perspective of a cheesy young sandwich, this beautifully illustrated book presents an unexpected lesson in self-discovery, offering subtle insights into the value of being unique and walking your own path. It’s cute and clever, and yes, there are a few grilled cheese puns that drop along the way. But essentially, the book is a reminder that comparison to others is nothing more than a recipe for breakdown.

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Sandy ReitmanX

One Grillie is the brainchild of author Sandy Reitman, a freelance writer and full-time copywriter whose quest for meaning has landed her as a writer in both New York and Milwaukee. When not working, she spends her time exploring Milwaukee’s culinary scene and pursuing creative pursuits that allow her to channel her passion for creative writing.

The name of her first children’s book belies her Cream City roots, taking inspiration from the kitchen language used by workers at Kopp’s Frozen Custard who yell “One Grillie!” when a customer orders a grilled cheese sandwich.

One Grillie is slated for release in January 2023 but is available to pre-order online through Mascot Books for $18.95 (plus shipping).

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