Summary: A Place at the Table
In A Place at the Table, Sara’s has moved from her smaller Islamic school to the larger neighborhood middle school. Unfortunately for her, her Pakistani mother has also started teaching after-school cooking classes (in addition to her catering business) at the school. Sara is forced to attend those since her mother won’t let her stay home alone — despite the fact that she’s in sixth grade. Many of the kids in the class are rude and make fun of her mother’s dishes while pretending not to understand her accent. But one student, Elizabeth seems to enjoy learning to cook.
Elizabeth’s British mother is dealing with depression after the death of her mother and is struggling to adapt to American culture and her husband’s Jewish customs. On top of that, Elizabeth is the only girl at home, her best friend is pulling away from her, and she’s worried about her parents’ relationship seemingly falling apart. Sara and Elizabeth form an unlikely friendship when they discover that both their mothers are studying to pass the American citizenship test.
This book was so good! The best part though? All the yummy food Sara’s mother, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth and Sara make in the course of the story. I loved Elizabeth’s character more and found Sara a bit too grumpy and annoying in the beginning. But again, the dual-perspective narration in this story helps you get into the girls’ minds and see their individual struggles even before they eventually confide in each other. It’s also wonderful that Sara makes such beautiful art!
There is some real friendship drama in this one as both girls struggle to find a sweet spot in the midst of all the chaos in their lives. The authors also tackle racism and microaggressions as well as the effect of a parent’s depression on her children. I also liked that both girls’ relationships with their faith are not glossed over but part of their lives. Sara maintaining her friendship with Rabia (from islamic school) even while navigating a new friendship with Elizabeth also reminds us that we can have more than one close friend.
Overall: A Place at the Table
A Place at the Table is a strong collaborative effort with more than just a stunning cover. This book has strong themes of food, unlikely friendships, culture, family, handling racism and standing up for what is right. It also does a good job at portraying a parent with depression, in the vein of Tae Keller’s The Science of Breakable Things (which I loved). If you’re looking for an immersive middle-grade book (I couldn’t put this one down!) that will make you salivate, then this is your pick!
Buy This Book
Other Dual Perspective Books
- Dough Boys by Paula Chase
- That’s What Friends Do by Cathleen Barnhart
- Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
More Books About Female Friendships
- Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence
- The Long Ride by Marina Budhos Tamar
- The Prettiest by Brigit Young
Have you read this book or any books by Saadia Faruqi or Laura Shovan? I loved Shovan’s Takedown and can’t wait for Faruqi’s A Thousand Questions! Which other middle-grade books about food are your favorite?
*This book is out August 11, although the original scheduled pub date was May 29. I received an ARC of A Place at the Table from co-author, Laura Shovan, in exchange for an honest review.