This review comes with a warning: do not read this one if you’re hungry. Today we’re talking about a wonderful picture book called Kalamata’s Kitchen that started out as a seed of an idea when Derek Wallace wanted to share his passion for food with his son. He reached out to his friend Sarah Thomas (who knew the food industry well as the Advanced Sommelier at Eric Ripert’s award-winning restaurant Le Bernardin) with the idea of a young girl named Kalamata – and the rest is history.
Title: Kalamata's Kitchen Author: Sarah Thomas Illustrator: Jo Kosmides Edwards Publisher: Random House Kids Published: July 20, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Kalamata’s Kitchen is the first book in a series following a young girl named Kalamata and her sidekick, an alligator name Al Dente. Kalamata is nervous about the first day of school when she remembers how brave she felt during her trip to India, where she and Al visited the spice market and fearlessly tried new foods and flavors.
Luckily, Kalamata has a “magical” kitchen table that she and Al can climb under and transport anywhere they want to be. Kalamata and Al travel back to the spice market in hopes of finding their bravery, as Kalamata’s mother cooks in the kitchen, filling the house with the delicious smell of dal. By journeying back to the market in India, Kalamata is inspired to connect with the children at her new school through food.
The illustrations by Jo Kosmides Edwards are wonderful. The bright colors are fun, but I was most impressed by the way she portrayed the spices on the page. Taste and smell can be such a tough concept to convey though text and illustration, but I could practically taste the cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric on the pages!
The back matter is also quite extensive for a fiction book. Readers will find a recipe for dal, a glossary of culinary terms, and a map of India highlighting the country’s unique regional dishes.
Kalamata’s Kitchen is set to launch as a full brand, including an upcoming animated TV show and themed toys and activities on their website. I’m personally a big fan of the Kal & Al Pals, a set of Kalamata and Al Dente plushies that young readers will certainly love.
Kalamata’s Kitchen officially releases next week (July 20, 2021), but you can preorder your copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop, Amazon, and the Kalamata’s Kitchen website, where all sales will benefit No Kid Hungry. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Random House Kids for providing me with a review copy of Kalamata’s Kitchen. It was an absolute delight, and I can’t wait to see what other cuisines Kalamata and Al Dente explore throughout the series.
About The Creators:
Sarah Thomas is the co-creator and Chief Imaginator of Kalamata’s Kitchen, but she considers her title of Professional Try-Things-Twicer the most important of all. Sarah grew up surrounded by the delicious scents and flavors of her mother’s Indian Kerala cuisine. Her love of food and storytelling led Sarah to the hospitality industry, and though she was a sommelier for years, these days she’s focused on introducing Kalamata and her Taste Buds to as many new friends as possible.
Jo Kosmides Edwards is the Doodling Dynamo of Kalamata’s Kitchen. She thinks of herself as a maker with a love for creating in many mediums, including books, murals, and fine art. Her love of food started as child in her father’s restaurant, where she earned the reputation of “the kid who would try anything.”
Derek Wallace is the creator of Kalamata’s Kitchen. He spent sixteen years working in sales and marketing leadership, until in 2016, he realized how much he wanted to inspire his son, Henry, to experience the world through the lens of food. So, he came up with the idea of a little girl named Kalamata, and has devoted himself to introducing her to the world ever since.