Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

by Kevin Noble Maillard (Author) Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book MedalA 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner

Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.

Fry bread is food.

It is warm and delicious, piled high on a plate.

Fry bread is time.

It brings families together for meals and new memories.

Fry bread is nation.

It is shared by many, from coast to coast and beyond.

Fry bread is us.

It is a celebration of old and new, traditional and modern, similarity and difference.

  • A 2020 Charlotte Huck Recommended Book
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Picture Book of 2019
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019
  • A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019
  • A Booklist 2019 Editor's Choice
  • A Shelf Awareness Best Children's Book of 2019
  • A Goodreads Choice Award 2019 Semifinalist
  • A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of 2019
  • A National Public Radio (NPR) Best Book of 2019
  • An NCTE Notable Poetry BookA 2020 NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
  • A 2020 ALA Notable Children's BookA 2020 ILA Notable Book for a Global Society
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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Fry bread is much more than food, as this book amply demonstrates.


Starred Review
Maillard and Martinez-Neal bring depth, detail, and whimsy to this Native American food story, with text and illustrations depicting the diversity of indigenous peoples, the role of continuity between generations, and the adaptation over time of people, place, and tradition.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Using brief statements that begin "fry bread is," Maillard, who is a member of the Mekusukey band of the Seminole Nation tribe, creates a powerful meditation on the food as "a cycle of heritage and fortune." In each spread, descriptions of fry bread range from the experiential (flavor, sound) to the more conceptual (nation, place). Bolstering the bold statements, spare poems emphasize fry bread in terms of provenance ("Fry bread is history/ The long walk, the stolen land"), culture ("Fry bread is art/ Sculpture, landscape, portrait"), and community ("Fry bread is time/ On weekdays and holidays/ Supper or dinner/ Powwows and festivals"). In blues and browns with bright highlights, Martinez-Neal's wispy art features a diverse group of six children carrying ingredients and learning about each statement. A fry bread recipe concludes the book, and an author's note offers vital, detailed context about this varied dish and its complex history ("The story of fry bread is the story of American Indians"). Ages 3-6. (Oct.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

PreS-Gr 2--Millard explores the rich and varied cultures of modern Native Americans through the lens of fry bread. Each section opens with "Fry Bread" in red capital letters, followed by a short lyrical verses tying the food to different aspects of Indigenous life. For example, the verse for "Fry Bread Is Time" reads "On weekdays and holidays/Supper or dinner/Powwows and festivals/Moments together/With family and friends." The verse for "Fry Bread Is History" explains, "The long walk, the stolen land/Strangers in our own world/With unknown food/We made new recipes/From what we had." Double-page color sketches in muted tones show the diversity of tribal members, with thoughtful details. As elders tell about the Trail of Tears, dark birds turn into sad people in the background. The author, a member of the Seminole Nation, shares his family recipe for fry bread and provides an extensive and thoughtful Author's Note, providing more information on each topic covered and occasionally calling out special details in the drawings. These notes deal with and dispel many stereotypes associated with Native peoples, while providing historical and contemporary facts. VERDICT This warm and charming book shows and affirms Native lives. The informational text and expressive drawings give it broad appeal, making it a first purchase for all libraries.--Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Through the story and the book's beautiful pictures, Kevin Noble Maillard and Juana Martinez-Neal capture the complexity of native identity. —Graham Lee Brewer, NPR

A wonderful and sweet book [that] takes a staple food of many tribes across the country and uses it to think about family, history, memory and community. . . Lovely stuff. —The New York Times Book Review

Rich with smells and sounds, Fry Bread radiates with Native American pride, the sharing of traditions and the love of family. —Book Page, starred review

An affecting picture book that features family and friends gathering, creating and enjoying fry bread together. Glorious . . . [Back matter] augments the simple, sincere verses with illuminating edification for older readers . . . Remarkable in balancing the shared delights of extended family with onerous ancestral legacy, Maillard both celebrates and bears witness to his no-single-recipe-fits-all community. —Shelf Awareness, starred review

Kevin Noble Maillard

Kevin Noble Maillard is the debut author of Fry Bread, published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan. He is also a regular writer and former contributing editor to the New York Times, with additional writings in The Atlantic, Essence, and The Week. He has provided on-air commentary for MSNBC, CNN, ABC, and Al Jazeera. Currently based in Manhattan, New York, he splits time between the city and upstate New York, where he is a tenured professor of law at Syracuse University. A graduate of Duke University and Penn Law School, he also earned a PhD in Political Theory from the University of Michigan. Originally from Oklahoma, he is an enrolled citizen of the Seminole Nation.

Juana Martinez-Neal is an illustrator of books for children, including the Pura Belpre Award winner La Princesa and the Pea. She made her authorial debut in 2018 with Alma and How She Got Her Name, which was awarded the Caldecott Honor. Juana was born in Lima, Peru, where she grew up surrounded by amazing meals prepared by her mom and amazing paintings made by her dad and grandad. She now lives, eats, and paints in Scottsdale, Arizona, surrounded by her amazing children.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date
October 22, 2019
BISAC categories
JUV013000 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | General
JUV011040 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Native American
JUV050000 - Juvenile Fiction | Cooking & Food
Library of Congress categories
Family life
Indians of North America
American Indian Youth Literature Award
Honor Book 2020 - 2020
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award
Winner 2020 - 2020

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