culture, food, spotlight

Spotlight – A Pizza With Everything On It/Soul Food Sunday

If you are a parent or teacher, you know how food can be a powerful motivator for children. It’s not just that they want to eat it, but they have strong opinions about what they like and don’t like. If you ever need a child to write an opinion paper, just ask them about a food they have strong feelings about, and the report simply writes itself. Food is also something we share with the people we love and therefore bonds communities together. The preparation and serving of food is one way people show that they love each other. These two books center on children sharing a food experience with a significant adult in their family. While one is silly & chaotic and the other is joyful & heartwarming, they both capture how vital food is to being alive.

A Pizza With Everything On It (Chronicle Books)
By Kyle Scheele
Illustrated by Andy J. Pizza
Ages 5-8

From the cover, you can tell something is off about this book. This won’t be the story of just making a pizza but a universe-shattering hilariously illustrated journey into the absurd. Kyle Scheele, the book’s author, is a popular TikToker who had aspirations to become an author when he was younger. He walked away because of how prohibitive the publishing industry can be. After gaining a following through TikTok, he decided to take another chance. The final product is this entertaining book.

A kid tells his dad, a professional pizza maker, asks for a pizza with everything on it. Dad loads it up with the toppings, but then his son says he wants EVERYTHING on it. From there, they add the contents of the child’s backpack, tables, chairs and then move out onto the street to go bigger. Eventually, this means pizza overtakes the fabric of the universe, creating a black hole and a pizza big bang!

The vocabulary here might be a little tricky, and your help as an adult could be needed. Words like “vortex” and “particle accelerator” may need some brief explanation. The sentiment of the book is clear though, just be silly. I’ve read this one to my niece and nephew, and they couldn’t stop laughing as the pizza escalated into crazier and crazier places.

Activities

1. Draw your own pizza with everything on it if you made it in your house. Kids will need to think of what objects in their home would be the silliest additions to a pizza. Encourage lots of details in their drawings.

2. Research and write a short paper on a black hole and where they come from. Make sure to use books and sources that are age-appropriate. Kids should walk away understanding the scale of a black hole to a pizza/their home/the planet.

3. Design and Make a board game using the book as inspiration. This makes a fantastic activity for the family or a whole class. Work together to decide if players cooperate or compete. How do you know when the game ends? How could making pizza be incorporated into the gameplay?


Soul Food Sunday (Abrams Books)
By Winsome Bingham
Illustrated by C.G. Esperanza

No matter your family, they seem to break into groups when everyone gets together. In this book, we open by seeing men head off to watch football, the older kids play video games in a side bedroom, one uncle, Roscoe Ray, hangs out by the grill cooking the meat. At the same time, most of the women gather in the kitchen. Finally, the narrator, a very special grandson, is invited into the kitchen by Granny to help prepare the most important dishes. He even gets to wear grandpa’s old army cook jacket.

Soul Food Sunday beautifully captures what it’s like to spend time with that particular person in the kitchen, a rite of passage as you help prep the foods that made you so happy for so many years. As adults, we might see these little tasks as tedious, a chore. But, in the eyes of our narrator, the wonder of childhood & the appreciation of the process is made infectious. You can’t help but smile as the cheese gets shredded for mac & cheese or the collard greens are prepped. 

C.G. Esperanza provides perfect illustrations for the story. He places beautiful little details on every page: Sonic the Hedgehog being played on the tv, an uncle wearing a Wu-Tang t-shirt, the iconic “Thank You” plastic grocery bags. These are tiny things, but they add to the experience, taking back parents so they can see the story through the eyes of their child. The message is how important it is for the self and the community to understand how the food gets made. By working on both sides of that process, you learn to fully appreciate all the love involved.

Activities

1. Illustrate the table at your Sunday lunch. This could be any big meal your family regularly has, even if it’s not on Sunday. Help your child make a list of the foods served, even ones they don’t eat. Then encourage detailed drawings of what they see when they imagine that table. For a little extra push, help them label each item being served.

2. Write about a time you helped make food with a family member. At some point, we have all been taught by a loved one how to make something in the kitchen. Help your student use as many sensory words and descriptions to talk about the process. Refer to the onomatopoeia used in the book to describe the sounds while prepping. 

3. Gather ingredients and a recipe, record a cooking video in the style of segments on Food Network. If your student is a little performer in the making, they will eat this one up. Make sure the dish is something you’ve made before with your child, so they aren’t flying blind. Encourage them to imagine someone is making it at home. They should be very explicit in their instructions to help that person out.

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