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The Picture Book Buzz

French Toast - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

The cover initially drew me to this book. Who can resist the maple syrup running over the French toast? The love on the faces of the girl and her grandma was so captivating, I had to see what it was about. This is one of those books where the illustrations and text remained with me long after I closed the cover. I hope you enjoy it too.

French Toast

Author: Kari-Lynn Winters

Illustrator: François Thisdale

Publisher: Pajama Press (2106)

Ages 5-8



Diversity, acceptance, bullying, imagination and self perceptions.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

Phoebe—half Jamaican, half French-Canadian—hates her school nickname of “French Toast.” So she is mortified when, out on a walk with her Jamaican grandmother, she hears a classmate shout it out at her. To make things worse, Nan-Ma, who is blind, wants an explanation of the name. How can Phoebe describe the color of her skin to someone who has never seen it? “Like tea, after you’ve added the milk,” she says. And her father? “Like warm banana bread.” And Nan-Ma herself? She is like maple syrup poured over...well...

In French Toast, Kari-Lynn Winters uses descriptions of favorite foods from both of Phoebe’s cultures to celebrate the varied skin tones of her family. François Thisdale’s imaginative illustrations fill the landscape with whimsy and mouthwatering delight as Phoebe realizes her own resilience and takes ownership of her nickname proudly.

Opening Lines:

Even though Nan-ma's blind, she sees things others do not.

On weekends, I am her neighborhood guide.

Today, I fall silent as we pass the school. I stare at my sandals, wishing Nan-ma could walk faster.

Then one of the kids - the one who always carries the basketball - shouts "Hey, French Toast!"

Another kid laughs.

Why I like this book:

Though we all see skin tones and our cultural terminology changes and defines how we interact with each other, I have never heard or thought about describing a skin tone based off favorite foods. Chocolate, peach pie, rye bread, banana bread, or maple syrup. This book made me question why we say "white," when most actually resemble peach yogurt, toasted coconut, or cinnamon honey.

Text © Kari-Lynn Winters, 2016. Image © François Thisdale, 2016.

This is a beautiful story of a blended family and a child coming to terms with her mixed heritage. Learning to be proud of what makes her special. As another layer, François Thisdale added a cat for the listeners (readers) to find as they read. Delicious illustrations of food and ingredients engage the senses as the story gently and joyfully engages the heart. This is a great story to help open a conversation about diversity, self perceptions, race, and bullying.

Related Activities:

- Think of other foods, flowers, or even crayons that could be used to describe skin tones.

- Using brushes, or bottles filled with water, blend various colors. (Peach and black, yellow and brown) Talk about blended families and the breakfast image at the end of the book.

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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