Food, I think, is a true universal. Everyone in every culture has food that is important to them, food that means celebration or comfort or peace or home. What it is varies from nation to nation, but it's critical in so many ways to all of us. Food can help bridge the gap between cultures; sharing a meal together helps diverse groups put aside their differences for a moment and find common ground.
For those of us who've adopted children from other countries, food is one of the first things we find to bond over. In the early days with Sprout, before he knew he could trust us and far before he understood that we were his now, forever, food was central to our bond. He was eating some soft food at the time, and I'll never forget the first time he tasted chocolate pudding -- the look on his face was shock at first, and then simple sheer joy (and a worldess "more, please!"). Those first days and weeks, food was critical to trust and helping him feel safe and comfortable, and while we fumbled our way as parents, it was the one thing that was easy to provide.
Food is at the center of a new book by George Shannon that I love for its deep perspective on global citizenship. Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? takes a spin on the familiar "Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?" song, by examining how the treats got in there in the first place. The premise is obvious right from the get-go: Shannon's looking at all the contributors, the world over, whose work facilitates the creation of these yummy treats. So we have workers making cookie sheets and farmers plowing fields, a young boy gathering eggs and a crew stocking store shelves. All of these folks, and many more, share pieces of the work that ends in delicious cookies of all kinds.
Julie Paschkis did the illustrations for this culinary journey, and their stylized, folk-art-infused nature really makes Shannon's ideas come alive. It's important to note that this isn't really meant to be a linear tale - we aren't following one batch of cookies from beginning to end, but rather looking at the process that makes many kinds of cookies, in many places, possible for all. So there are families grinding wheat by hand and others loading trucks, and both processes exist side-by-side in Paschkis' winsome and clever illustrations. And that's perfectly reasonable.
What I really appreciate about this book, and what I think Shannon and Paschkis are trying to get across, is the very global nature of sharing treats together. We see it in all cultures, as Paschkis shows us on the final threat, where characters of all ages, colors and creeds are enjoying little bits of sugary goodness. This book, perfect to share with the youngest of readers, brings up some great opportunities to talk about the way food comes to our table, but also how food is shared by people the world over. Because after all, who doesn't love a delicious cookie of one sort or another?
Be prepared to read this one more than once - it's a slow build, and the message definitely grew on Sprout the more we read this title. In the end, he was thrilled to see people from all walks of life sharing cookies with each other. And of course, it prompted the oh-so-familiar question: "Can we bake some cookies, Mom?"
First lines: "One hand in the cookie jar takes a cookie out. / How many hands put the cookie in is what the world's about."