78-coverMost people, kids especially, know what it’s like to be full of one food but still somehow have room for another, especially if it’s something sweet. In this picture book/graphic novel hybrid, a brother and sister insist that they’re too stuffed to manage another bite of vegetables, but they’re ready for dessert. Their mother is skeptical, but their father understands. He offers a fanciful explanation—little anthropomorphic food people who live in the stomach and have different preferences of their own. This, he says, is why there is always room for dessert.

Why There is Always Room for Dessert is 32 pages long and combines speech bubbles and sequential art with more traditional full page illustrations, making it more of a hybrid than a typical picture book. The artwork is colorful and detailed. The family members are painted with a wholesome, rosy-cheeked realism vaguely reminiscent of 1950s illustrated advertisements, but with softer edges. The characters’ eyes aren’t always aimed precisely, giving them a touch of the thousand-yard stare, but their faces are still expressive. The style holds steady as the story ventures into a world of “food people,” giving them the same depth as the human characters.

This book is available in both English and Spanish, and there is a sense that the book’s creators put a lot of thought and effort into making the Spanish-language version, Por Qué Siempre Hay Lugar para el Postre, more than just a translation of the English-language one. The English version features a blue-eyed white family with children named Sara and Tommy who claim to be full of carrots, peas, and potatoes. In the Spanish version, a tan/brown-skinned, brown-eyed, dark-haired family discusses whether young Diego and María need to finish their beans, tomatoes, and (Mexican-style) corn. The “dessert person” pictured on the cover and featured prominently in each book, changes a little as well. Most notably in the English version, he wears a small hat made of fruit, while the Spanish-language version features him wearing a sombrero. The types of dessert dreamed of by the children of the two families vary, too, from cake and pie to churros, sweet breads, and more. The visual format of the two books is the same, with each illustration, panel, and speech bubble appearing (in slightly different style) in both books.

As a native speaker of English who hasn’t studied Spanish since college, I could read the Spanish-language version, though I don’t feel qualified to evaluate how natural and correct the language might feel to a native speaker. The Spanish version varies its vocabulary slightly more than the English one, making it less repetitive. The repetition could actually be positive when the story is read to young children, who may enjoy following the patterns as Tommy and Sara each insist that their tummies will pop if they eat any more vegetables, and they catalog the things they cannot finish: “I’m full of carrots;” “I’m full of milk;” “I’m full of potatoes;” “I’m full of peas.” The Spanish version switches the sentence structure up a little, so the exact parallels aren’t there. Of course, varied sentences are also good for young kids to hear.

Young children will likely enjoy the creativity of the story and the amusing, personable food people. In the end, the kids do get dessert without finishing their vegetables, a conclusion that might raise some parental eyebrows, though it provides a happy ending for the characters. Reading both versions of the book, it’s fun to see a story that stems from a universal place being presented through two different cultural lenses.

Why There is Always Room for Dessert
by Lynn Fielding
Art by Jeff Lee Johnson
ISBN: 9780966687545
New Foundation Press, 2013

Por Qué Siempre Hay Lugar para el Postre
by Lynn Fielding
Art by Jeff Lee Johnson
ISBN: 9780966687552
New Foundation Press, 2013

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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