Aside from me desperately wanting to get Bilal’s family a pressure cooker this 40 page book does a good job, and follows a reliable tradition of using food to introduce a “foreign” culture while simultaneously showing universal themes that show how similar we all are when it comes to family, meals, friends and feeling loved.
Bilal’s favorite food is daal, lentils, and when he is out riding his bike with his friends, his father calls him in to help him make it. Confused as to why Bilal’s dad would need to start dinner so early in the day, Bilal’s friends join in, in helping make the slow cooking traditional asian subcontinent dish.
They line up the spices, they put it in the pot, and then they wait. They put their shoes back on and play hopscotch, they go swimming, they go for a hike and it still isn’t done.
At one point Bilal is worried his friends won’t like it, but after waiting all day and gathering more friends at each activity, when the time finally comes they all dive in and love it.
I love the diversity of the friends and that the dad is cooking and involving his son. I also like that everyone is willing to try something new and give it a chance.
The book would work for all kids ages 4 and up with the expressive colorful illustrations, diction, and amount of text on the page. The book is 9×8 so it works well in small groups and at bedtime.
If you eat daal your kids will love seeing themselves in the pages, if you have never had daal there is a recipe at the end following an Author’s Note.
There is nothing religious in the book, and anyone from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh could easily take ownership of the dish and story. The Author’s note mentions that Bilal’s grandparents are from Pakistan and with a name of Bilal chances are he is a Muslim character.