cover image Salsa Stories

Salsa Stories

Lulu Delacre. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-590-63118-1

Delacre (Arroz Con Leche) serves up a mixed menu here, combining a rather strained collection of seven tales featuring Latin American foods with recipes for the dishes mentioned. At a New Year's gathering of Carmen Teresa's extended family, a guest presents the girl with a blank book. When the child wonders what she should write in the volume, her mother suggests she ""collect stories from our family and friends."" Relatives take turns relaying tales of their childhood in diverse locales such as Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Argentina and Peru. Carmen Teresa's grandfather recalls fearing that he would not be allowed to partake of his mother's tortilla dish as punishment for lying to her. And in one of the most touching vignettes, her aunt describes a school field trip to a nursing home, where she met a blind woman who shared her forbidden sweets. In the end, Carmen Teresa decides to fill her new book with the recipes at the core of the storytellers' reminiscences. The recipes, most of which require significant adult participation, range from main dishes (chicken with rice, codfish stew) to desserts (nougat candy, coconut flan). Though Delacre's narrative shapes an appealing portrait of several generations from all over the globe, uniting in a close-knit family, the tales' organizing premise--food--grows repetitious and forced (e.g., ""We are helping Mam prepare the sofrito sauce for her arroz con pollo. This is the rice dish for which Mam is famous among all our friends and family""). Despite a text spiced with exotic words and locales, youngsters may find this rather bland fare. Ages 9-up. (Mar.)