CORA COOKS PANCIT by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore,
pictures by Kristi Valiant (Shen’s Books, 2009).
Picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Here’s a thoroughly delicious, lip-smacking picture book, perfect for celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!
Just released by Shen’s Books in April, Cora Cooks Pancit is the heartwarming story of a little girl’s first experience helping her mother prepare a favorite Filipino noodle dish.
As the youngest in the family, Cora usually gets stuck with little kid jobs, like drawing pictures in the flour or licking the spoon. But one day, while her older siblings are out busy with other things, Cora, who longs to be a cook, finally gets her chance to be Mama’s assistant. When Mama asks Cora what she wants to make, this is what happens:
All her favorite Filipino foods danced in her head.
Lines of lumpia pranced in rows.
Adobo chicken legs be-bopped in time.
She saw a large bowl of pancit.
The thick noodles and vegetables curled and swirled in a dance party. Mmmm.
Wearing Mama’s red apron, Cora finally gets to do grown-up jobs, like soaking the noodles and shredding the chicken. She lines up the vegetables while Mama slices them. Best of all, she gets to stir everything together in the big pancit pan. It looks and smells so good. But what will her siblings say when they find out she did their jobs? And will they like Cora’s pancit?
Dorina Lazo Gilmore’s text is delightful, engaging and wonderfully sensual. Mouths will water when, “The pot began to hiss and sizzle. Mama added spices too — garlic, ginger and a splash of soy sauce. Mmmm. Cora loved the smell of garlic.”
I love the mother/daughter bond in the story, and children will likely appreciate how special Cora feels, as the youngest of four, to have Mama all to herself. The red apron is also a very nice touch — Cora learns it originally belonged to Lolo, her grandpa, who grew up in the Philippines and cooked for farmworkers in California.
Kristi Valiant’s illustrations are the warm stuff of golds, browns, and rich jewel tones. Cora’s expressions are convincingly hopeful, joyous, pensive, and tentative, as she anxiously tries her hand at new tasks. Kids will especially love the added storyline of the family dog, who follows Cora around with a toy in his mouth, wanting her to play. The true joys of cooking — from the initial anticipation, through every step of preparation, and finally, the sharing and tasting, is palpable with every page turn. By the time you come to the final double page spread of the whole family at the table, you’ll wish you were right there, feasting on the adobo chicken, lumpia, and Cora’s first pancit.
Recently, I asked Kristi about how she created the pictures for this lovely book, and she graciously shared these thoughts:
The text for Cora Cooks Pancit is very sweet and charming. After I read through it numerous times, I created small sketches called thumbnails to get an idea of the general flow of the illustrations, and how I would divide the text between pages. Picture books by definition tell part of the story through pictures, so I tried to pick out parts that can be expanded upon to tell a deeper or funnier story by “reading” the illustrations.
For example, I like humor in picture books, so I added a dog who wasn’t mentioned at all in the text. He follows Cora around and keeps bringing more and more toys hoping she’ll play with him. She ignores the dog all the way through the book, until the very end when she’s lying on the floor playing tug of war with him.
After I did quick sketches, I took photos of a 5-year-old and her mother as a reference for the poses, and I checked out all the books from my library about Filipino food. Then I drew more detailed sketches. I work digitally, so I do everything from sketches to the final color paintings on my mac using a wacom tablet and an electronic pen.
I played around with the brush creator in Photoshop to get my computer brushes to look like pastel, watercolor, or acrylic, and I use the electronic pen as a paintbrush. It allows a lot more editing freedom than traditional paints, and the undo button has become a big part of my process! The author, Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, included her family recipe for pancit in Cora Cooks Pancit, so part of my process for this book was to make this Filipino noodle dish. It is delicious! Super yummy! I hope you enjoy it too.
In addition to Lolo’s Pancit Recipe, there’s also a short glossary, and the back flap features fetching photos of both Dorina and Kristi with their noodle bowls. I know you will enjoy this feast of a book — not only is it a rare title featuring Filipino culture, it’s so delectable, the whole family will ask for repeated servings!☺
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Dorina Lazo Gilmore, who grew up spending a lot of time in her Filipino-Italian family’s kitchen with her mama, grandma and aunties, also has a fabulous blog, health-full, where she and her husband and daughter share budget-friendly, healthy recipes.
Check out the publisher’s webpage for more about Cora Cooks Pancit!
If you’re looking for a few more delicious ways to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, click here for my 2008 posts, featuring several Asian American authors and their spicy recipes, an interview with Debbi Michiko Florence, poetry, sushi, and book reviews. I also interviewed Grace Lin and Edna Cabcabin Moran, who shared her recipe for lumpia.
*Spreads posted by permission, text copyright © 2009 Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrations © 2009 Kristi Valiant, published by Shen’s Books. All rights reserved.