cover image The Princess of Borscht

The Princess of Borscht

Leda Schubert, illus. by Bonnie Christensen. Roaring Brook/Porter, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59643-515-5

Ruthie’s beloved Grandma may be hospitalized with pneumonia, but she’s still a firecracker: “[A] person could starve to death here,” she tells Ruthie. What Grandma wants—and by 5 p.m., no less—is homemade borscht, preferably from her own secret recipe. Ruthie’s attempt to recreate the borscht with the help of the highly opinionated women who live in Grandma’s building is really several stories at once: Ruthie’s discovery of her inner chef (she becomes the borscht “Princess” to Grandma’s “Queen”); her initiation into the guild of elite home cooks; and an affirmation of membership in a loving—if also interfering and contentious—community. Christensen’s (Fabulous: A Portrait of Andy Warhol) exuberant, sketch-style drawings have a knowing humor and immediacy that pull readers into the story; her Rosie is by turns bemused and befuddled, but her gentle determination shines through. Likewise, Schubert (Feeding the Sheep) hits just the right notes of sweet, sour, and salty in portraying a milieu in which operatic emotions, bickering, and sharp remarks (“Pooh. What do they know?” says Grandma of her peers) are really a form of unconditional affection. Ages 4–7. (Nov.)