cover image How Nanita Learned to Make Flan

How Nanita Learned to Make Flan

Campbell Geeslin. Atheneum Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81546-1

From even a glance at the flan recipe on the endpapers, young readers will guess they're in for a treat--and the author-illustrator team who created On Ramon's Farm doesn't disappoint. Geeslin weaves elements of Mexican culture into a magical tale with love and food at its core. In their tiny Mexican village, Nanita's cobbler father works so hard that he has no time to smile, much less make Nanita a pair of new shoes for her impending First Communion. Nanita therefore takes on the task herself, fashioning multicolored shoes out of leather scraps. Once on her feet, the shoes magically lead her to the desert home of a cruel ranchero, where she is pressed into service as a Cinderella-like house servant. When a special parrot arrives in the household, he teaches Nanita the secret to making great flan and also helps her find a way to rejoin her father. The language is compelling and the story satisfying. Mathers clearly feels at home south of the border, using Mexican details (religious icons, Day of the Dead skull masks) to bring a sly whimsy to her spare compositions. Her watercolor palette zings with cool purples and splashes of hot pink and sunny yellow. The penultimate scene of Nanita in her white First Communion dress before Our Lady of Guadalupe is particularly poignant. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)