A little girl, baking bread with her grandmother, becomes transported by the tales her grandmother’s hands tell—those that spring from the rose-painted nails, a flower-banded wedding ring, and the way her fingers move and glide. These hands have many tales to tell. But only if you listen.
Best Children’s Books of the Year 2023: Bank Street College of Education Children’s Book Committee
Best Children’s Multicultural Books of 2022 by CSMCL
NCTE 2023 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, Recommended Book
New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2022
Author & Illustrator
Kelly Starling Lyons
Like Zoe, author Kelly Starling Lyons grew up baking treats with her Grandma. Now, she celebrates those special moments in stories. Kelly has written many acclaimed children's books including Caldecott Honor winner Going Down Home with Daddy, Christopher Award winner Tiara's Hat Parade and Geisel Honor winner, Ty's Travels: Zip, Zoom. She is a teaching artist and a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf. Kelly lives in North Carolina with her family. Visit her online at www.kellystarlinglyons.com.
Tonya Engel is a self-taught artist born in Texas and has established studios in New York, Miami, Austin, and Houston, where she now lives. Heavily influenced by folk artists of the Deep South and Harlem Renaissance, Tonya’s illustrations speak to image, identity, and relationships. Combining decorative elements, oil paints, and occasional collage, the subjects are mainly women whose facial expressions invite thought and interpretation. Engel has received many awards, including a three-month residency in Paris, France.
★ Hands and the stories they tell become the means through which a Black child bonds with a beloved grandmother in this expressive, painterly picture book. While showing Zoe how to bake cinnamon bread like her mother taught her (“Ingredients are only part of it. You’ve got to get the rhythm”), Zoe’s grandma describes some of what her hands have seen and done—from dancing onstage to growing a vegetable garden early in her marriage—prompting Zoe to reflect on the future. “I look at my hands, really look at them, for the first time./ I can see memories in every line.// Clapping games with friends./ Drawing my dreams./ Building and baking,” Zoe describes. When the bread is finished, the pair high five, and Grandma remarks upon the physical similarity between their hands, while also musing about the different life experiences Zoe is sure to have. With big brushstrokes, Engel’s thickly textured paintings lend a timeless feel to Lyons’s heartwarming portrait of grandparent-child love.
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
★ In this heartwarming story, Zoe, a young Black girl, shares reflective conversation with her grandma, inspired by Zoe’s observations of her grandma’s skillful, graceful hands as they bake bread together. The grandmother reveals how her hands hold memories, love of family, and a life lived with purpose, all of which reassure Zoe that her own hands hold strength to shape the start of her own life story. This sincere relationship of trust and care is beautifully captured in oil-painted illustrations, where quiet, personal moments within the kitchen are accompanied by an elegant, symbolic focus on hands. Engel’s painterly brush strokes in captivating scenes create textured grooves, an integral element transforming the hands and scenes depicted into sculpted lines and lively colors that appear almost tangible to readers. Vivid blended layers and gentle swirls outline the figures for a glowing effect that echoes the thoughtful tone of the story. Readers will pause to share in the happiness and sense of peace that bloom on the family’s faces; the spirit of finding one’s calling in this expressively illustrated book honoring family and self-love.
—School Library Journal Starred Review
By gaining an appreciation for the past, this endearing tale empowers Zoe to use her hands to craft the stories of the future.
– SRQ Magazine
This story spreads joy like a dusting of flour on a freshly baked loaf.