Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stir It Up! Ramin Ganeshram

I'm on kind of a review backlog right now. My to-review pile on my desk at work is drawing ugly looks from my co-workers and manager who like things to look neat, and my to-read pile is even bigger. Not to mention the requesting spree I just went on at Net Galley. Sigh, my life is just so tough.

Anyway, I'm making an effort to actually see the desk part of my desk again so get ready for a slew of reviews in the coming weeks. I'm also going to be playing around a little bit with the format of my reviews, I'm not entirely happy with how they're set up now. We're starting with Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram.

The Deal: Anjali is a 13 year old girl living in Queens, New York. She goes to private school where she doesn't quite fit in and she's under a lot of pressure from her family to do well on her tests and be accepted at a prestigious public high school for the next year. With her mother also studying all the time to get her nursing certification in the United States, sometimes it feels like education is all her immigrant family cares about. All Anjali cares about however, is cooking. She loves helping out in her family's Roti shop and inventing her own recipes. She's sure she's got what it takes to become a chef someday, and someday might be closer than she ever imagined. When Anjali gets the chance to audition for a Food Network show she must decide how far she's willing to go to share her recipes and her family's Trinidadian heritage with the world.

What Worked: Don't read this book while you're hungry. Ganeshram does an amazing job of making Anjali's passion jump off the page and fill up the room with delicious and spicy smells. Although this is her first book for kids, Ganeshram is a food writer and the skill and love that she has for her craft translates both to Anjali and to the other, minor, chef characters in the story. Anjali is sympathetic and I enjoyed her relationships with both her best friend, Lincoln, and her grandmother Deema.

What Didn't Work: Man, if I ever disobeyed my parents like Anjali does in this book I would not be here writing this. A little too much depended on characters acting out of (their already established) character to move the plot along for my comfort.

Anything Extra Special?: Yes. There is a recipe for every single dish that Anjali makes throughout the book. As someone who has never been exposed to Trinidadian cooking before (a minor plot point in the novel) I am super excited to take the book home and start cooking. Even better, since this book was written for older elementary and middle school kids, the recipes are incredibly simple and straightforward. The perfect introduction to any new cuisine! First up on my list of things to make from Stir It Up! are the Shrimp Burger Pitas she makes for her first audition. Mmmmm, mmmm good.

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