Saturday, September 5, 2020

Review - Holy Molé!

Holy Molé!

by Caroline McAlister
illustrated by Stefan Czernecki
Date: 2006
Publisher: August House Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Sometimes the most unintentional mistakes yield some magical results! Carlos is working in the kitchen of the Mexican monastery when the cook enters the room in a panic. The Spanish Viceroy is on his way for a surprise visit and will arrive by noon, expecting dinner. What will the brothers feed this important ambassador to the king? Carlos tries to stay out of the way as lunch is hastily prepared, but his curiosity gets the best of him. His eagerness results in a moment of crisis, followed by what the brothers can only assume is a miracle. This story, inspired by the Mexican folk tradition, explains the origins of mole, the popular national dish that combines chocolate with turkey, spices, and nuts. Stefan Czernecki's amusing, angular illustrations capture the chaos in the kitchen as well as the folk tradition behind the tale.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know what the author was thinking.

Holy Molé! is a retelling of the origin story of Mexican mole sauce. In a note at the back, the author tells the reader that there are two main versions of the tale: one involving a nun named Sister Andrea, and another involving a monk named Brother Pascual Bailon. In both, they are preparing a dish for the Spanish Viceroy when things go wrong and a whole bunch of accidental ingredients end up in the pot, resulting in mole sauce. Unfortunately, the author chose to go with the version involving the monk... and then added a small local boy as a "kitchen boy". Institutionalized child molestation and colonial slavery immediately come to mind, rendering what could've been an interesting folktale retelling into an uncomfortable picture book.

The illustrations don't redeem the book at all for me, either. The characters are angular, basic, and rather unappealing. This is a book about food, and the drawings of the food are less than mouthwatering.

I can't recommend this one at all. While the original story is somewhat interesting, the choices made for this retelling are just... icky.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 1.83 out of 5

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