cover image Nonna’s Birthday Surprise

Nonna’s Birthday Surprise

Lidia Bastianich, illus. by Renée Graef. Running Press Kids, $16.95 (56p) ISBN 978-0-7624-4655-1

Fans of Bastianich’s cooking shows on PBS will be familiar with her mother, Erminia, whose birthday brings the whole family together in the author’s second picture book, following 2010’s Nonna Tell Me a Story. As Nonni Lidia and her five grandchildren try to plan a menu for her mother’s birthday dinner, Lidia shares a season-by-season reminiscence of her childhood in Istria, now part of Croatia. Spring meant picking fresh peas, summer involved hunting down goose eggs, and harvesting potatoes and relying on preserved foods accompanied autumn and winter. There’s a strong locavore emphasis throughout, especially when—back in the present day—Nonni Lidia and her grandchildren visit the farmer’s market, gathering ingredients for pasta primavera. All five grandkids get lines and moments in the spotlight (one can’t play favorites where grandchildren are involved), which tends to further slow an already sluggish story. Graef (Paul Bunyan’s Sweetheart) provides soft, cheery scenes of intergenerational interaction, highlighting the idea that children can play active roles in family meals. More than a dozen recipes, organized by season, close out the story. All ages. Illustrator’s agent: Cornell and McCarthy. (Apr.)