cover image Just Right Stew

Just Right Stew

Karen English. Boyds Mills Press, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-487-8

Authentic and lively dialogue, framed by a perceptive girl's flowing first-person narrative, move English's (Big Wind Coming) savory story along at a snappy pace. Victoria runs errands for her mother and aunts as they prepare a batch of Big Mama's (their mother's) famous oxtail stew for her birthday, but can't agree on the missing essential spice. ""You both can't taste. You must be gettin' old,"" snaps the youngest aunt when her sisters tell her that the cumin she has added to the pot hasn't done the trick. Victoria, of course, knows the secret. Rich's (Annie's Gifts) boldly hued, textured oil paintings add an extra dash of humor to these spirited goings-on, effectively capturing the sisters' frustration and impatience in their facial expressions and gestures. The determinate scope and setting of the plot elicits somewhat repetitive scenes in the artwork, and an uneven distribution of text makes for several word-laden pages. But these minor flaws will hardly prevent youngsters from relishing this tale, which certainly has the requisite ingredients for a satisfying read. Ages 5-9. (Feb.)