cover image Spicy Spicy Hot

Spicy Spicy Hot

Lenny Wen. Little, Brown, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-3162-8102-7

When her grandmother, Nenek, visits from Indonesia, young Lintang tries to eat her “famous sambal” but runs into the titular experience in this picture book. In a solid author-illustrator debut, Wen skillfully establishes the setup through precise childlike gestures (“Lintang is so excited she can’t keep her hands from clapping”) and appealing sensory details (“Nenek’s hug smells like a mixture of cinnamon and coconut”). After Nenek arrives and begins cooking the sambal that “Papa can’t stop talking about,” Lintang takes her first bite. On one spread, time-lapse vignettes show the child’s reactions—gasping, throat-clutching, mouth-puckering, plunging her face into a bucket of water—before, after feeling “left out” at dinner, she declares, “I am not afraid.... You’re not too hot for me!” and tries again. Reaction-oriented storytelling that moves toward an appropriately tender familial moment is matched by homey gouache and colored pencil images that are digitally finished. A sambal recipe and chili warning conclude. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)