Picture Book Review: Bilal Cooks Daal
Madeline not realizing that the title wasn’t a single word, and then going on to mangle it worse each time as she repeated it over and over to herself, was highly entertaining.
We received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Review Date: July 1st, 2019
Written By: Aisha Saeed
Illustrated by: Anoosha Syed
Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish–daal!–in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing.
Bilal is excited to help his dad make the best food of all time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to share daal with his friends. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?
I am making a more conscious effort to diversify our books lately, as I believe it is really important that the girls are at least exposed, if even just through reading, to other skin colors, cultures, religions, customs, genders, etc. That way, as they grow and experience more things, those differences won’t quite feel so “other” and, the hope is, they won’t treat those who are different from them differently. Of course, skin color is one difference they’ve seen since they were both really little. But while a diversity of skin colors is easy to come by in our town, a diversity of many of the other things, not so much. The fact that I, in my thirties, am being exposed to what daal is for the first time, reading this book, right along with my four year old, is telling. I’m not an adventurous eater, so that may certainly play a part here. But I want the girls to be intrigued and interested by things that are outside of their normal daily lives, rather than afraid or wary. Books like this help make that happen. It’s even as simple as hearing names you don’t often hear. Bilal is not a name we have encountered before. Now it is. Now Madeline can think back on this totally relatable story and equate a boy who is nervous about sharing his favorite food with his friends with a name like Bilal (or his father Abu). What I’m saying is that the importance of representation in our books is not just for those they represent, but also for my girls who have a plethora of representation already. So I’m excited to have this book on our shelves.
As for the story itself…First off, Madeline not realizing that the title wasn’t a single word, and then going on to mangle it worse each time as she repeated it over and over to herself, was highly entertaining. I did eventually explain to her that it was three separate words, and we finally started reading the story. The artwork is fun and reminiscent of other books I enjoy as far as style goes. It’s playful, animation style drawing with a lovely, bright color palette. I think this is a nod to all the different spices and the colors you tend to see in a complicated (flavor-wise) dish like this. The story is not only about a child hoping his friends like his favorite food (we have all been there, hoping someone you care for shares the same delight in something as you and being anxious about it), but also a little love letter to cooking and friendship. There’s a joy in the act of putting it all together and in having patience for it to be completed that really shines through, here. It even makes me want to cook (which I’m not usually a fan of unless its banana bread, which is about as complicated a recipe as I dare try). And of course, Bilal’s friends are a little wary of the new food as it begins to cook, but still they wait (as patiently as kids wait) as long as it takes to share it with him, because friends support each other and want to share their love of things with each other. The fact that they are open to trying it despite their misgivings is a nice little lesson, as well. It goes to show that sometimes you think you won’t like something, but then you do. Which is the case here.
We really liked this book. It was fun and relatable and a definite feel-good kind of story. An additional bonus is that there is a daal recipe in the back. Which has us itching to get creative in the kitchen soon and try making it ourselves!
- Font Readability: 10/10
- Kid Engagement: 9/10
- Mommy Engagement: 9/10