Fry Bread -- Book Review & More


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Today we are going to explore Native American fry bread and share a picture book about it. Fry bread is a bit controversial in the Native American society. Some love it and others hate it due to its history. When Native Americans were forced away from their ancestral lands, they took everything they owned and could carry and walked to new lands which were nothing like their original homelands. One such "walk" is known as the Trail of Tears. Thousands of people died on the long walk. After this displacement, some of which is still occurring, the Native people could not live the way they always had. They could not get the food they knew or even grow the food they usually grew. The United States Government subsidized some basic foods and it is said the Navajos were the first to create fry bread with flour, baking powder, salt and water. 

Now I first heard about fry bread while reading Firekeeper's Daughter earlier this year. (A young adult novel I highly recommend.) When I looked into it I found the controversy and history of it. Fry bread is now often eaten at ceremonial events, feast days, and powwows. There are many different recipes for fry bread these days and some even have yeast. Fry bread can be served by itself, with taco toppings, or with sugar on it (like fried bread at fairs). (Source: Biggers, Ashley M., Mental Floss., "The Complicated History of Fry Bread." (30 Nov 2020) Fry Bread's Controversial History | Mental Floss.) 

Today I am going to share with you Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is recommended for ages 2 to 7. It is the winner of the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal and a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Picture Book Honor Winner.

From the Publisher: 

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 Book
A 2020 NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
A 2020 ALA Notable Children's Book
A 2020 ILA Notable Book for a Global Society
2020 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year List
One of NPR's 100 Favorite Books for Young Readers
Nominee, Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award 2022-2022
Nominee, Illinois Monarch Award 2022

From Me:

This book is separated with little section headers like "Fry Bread is food" as seen on the sample page above. The book presents fry bread with all of its variety and history. It also shows different colored people throughout its pages as Native Americans skin color can vary greatly as well. The beginning of the book shares the experience of making fry bread as well as eating it. It shares how fry bread has become an art and also shares illustrations of other Native American arts. 

Then the book shares a bit about the history of fry bread. As well as the fact that Native Americans are now all over the country in both cities and towns. Fry bread is also now in all different Native Nations. 

Then Kevin Noble Maillard shares his fry bread recipe. I decided to find a more traditional recipe to try and did not make his which includes yeast. I thought using yeast would make it very much like the fried bread we get at fairs. 

After the recipe comes the Author's Note. In the note Kevin goes back through each section and expands on it. Some is his own history and story and others relate fry bread to other cultures like naan bread or pita bread. In these notes more culture is shared and more information is shared with the reader. It is here that he shares about the people drawn in the book with different skin tones because of how there are many different skin tones now in the Native American cultures. The illustrations add so much to the culture and share cultures from different Native Nations. It is truly a wonderful book and I can see why it has won so many awards! Now, of course we had to try fry bread ourselves. We used the recipe linked above.

Now I have to admit I hardly ever fry food like this, but I found enough oil in the house to do it. I doubled the recipe to make four pieces of fry bread. 

I decided to make "Navajo tacos" with our fry bread. Since there are three of us, we each had a piece of the bread as our "shell" or base and then we tried the fourth piece without anything on it. It was good. Not great but good. However, once we added taco toppings, we found it delicious and very filling. 

I have to admit I kind of want to go to the powwow this summer and try Native made fry bread! The Mashpee Wampanoag have a powwow every July. Hazel and I went one year when she was young!