Tomatoes for Neela

by Padma Lakshmi (Author) Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Padma Lakshmi, bestselling author and host of Bravo's Top Chef and Hulu's Taste the Nation, and Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal team up in this celebration of food and family.

"Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of cooking with the women in my family. It is the foundation for all I have spent my life working on." -Padma Lakshmi

Neela loves cooking with her amma and writing down the recipes in her notebook. It makes her feel closer to her paati who lives far away in India. On Saturdays, Neela and Amma go to the green market and today they are buying tomatoes to make Paati's famous sauce. But first, Neela needs to learn about all the different kinds of tomatoes they can pick from. And as Neela and Amma cook together, they find a way for Paati to share in both the love and the flavors of the day.

Bestselling author and host of Bravo's Top Chef and Hulu's Taste the Nation Padma Lakshmi takes young readers on an intergenerational journey full of delicious flavors and fun food facts that celebrates a family's treasured recipes. And Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal brings this circle of women to life with vivid detail and warmth. Tomatoes for Neela lovingly affirms how we can connect to other cultures, as well as to our own, through food.

Kirkus Reviews

Martinez-Neal's warmly textured, beautifully detailed illustrations are the perfect celebration of intergenerational love.

Publishers Weekly

Top Chef and Taste the Nation host Lakshmi lends her expertise to this stuffed picture book, exploring how cooking can preserve both intergenerational bonds and summer's bounty. Neela, a brown-skinned child, adores cooking with her amma, who pens recipes in a notebook passed down from Neela's paati. On Saturdays, Neela and her amma visit the green market, "now brimming with crops from the end of summer." After surveying lusciously painted tomatoes across two spreads, which are described in scribbled addenda ("Big like a softball. Slice them thick for toast with mayonnaise"), the duo returns home to preserve them, using a family recipe. As the story moves along, each step includes additional facts: "Did you know that 'tomato' comes from an old Aztec word, 'tomatl'?" In acrylic paint and colored pencil, Caldecott Honoree Martinez-Neal contributes warmly expressive, toothsome spreads that emphasize food, family, and the natural world. While copious factual asides would serve better as back matter, the sweet, lushly illustrated tale succeeds in showing the importance of food as connection within one Indian American family. Back matter includes recipes for tomato sauce and tomato chutney, as well as tomato fun facts, resources on farmworkers, and an author's note. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"The sweet, lushly illustrated tale succeeds in showing the importance of food as connection within one Indian American family." -Publishers Weekly

Padma Lakshmi
Padma Lakshmi is the creator and host of Hulu's Taste the Nation and host and executive producer of the Emmy-winning Bravo series Top Chef. She is the bestselling author of two cookbooks, the Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs, as
well as her memoir Love, Loss, and What We Ate. Lakshmi is also cofounder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America, an artist ambassador for the ACLU, and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. She lives in New York City with her daughter. Her favorite kind of tomato is a San Marzano.

Juana Martinez-Neal is the winner of the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya and the Caldecott Honor Award for Alma and How She Got Her Name, which she also wrote. Originally from Lima, Peru, she lives with her husband and three children in Arizona where she cooks with lots of Roma tomatoes.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2021

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