♦ “A skeptical girl overcomes hesitations to connect a blended family in Brand-New Bubbe, an interfaith celebration of open-mindedness and the unifying power of a good bowl of soup.
Jillian, happy with her theater-loving Noni and adventurous Gram, greets her new “really nice” stepdad’s mother, the boisterous bubbe (Yiddish for grandmother), with outright hostility. “She didn’t want [Noni and Gram] to feel left out. Or, even worse, replaced.” Eventually Jillian’s mom scolds her for her unwelcoming behavior and forces her into a matzo ball soup-making lesson. The delicious broth Bubbe cooks opens Jillian’s mind: “Like soup, family was made with love. And there was always room for more.” Understanding now that “family is more than blood,” Jillian connects several generations of relatives over a homemade, multicultural meal.
Author Sarah Aronson (Just Like Rube Goldberg) offers an empathetic emotional arc for readers who might relate to changes in their family structure. Her presentation of a growing, global and interfaith family speaks to a broad audience, but her story is also culturally specific, highlighting Judaism and introducing the concept of machatunim, a Yiddish word for the relationship between in-laws. There is no English equivalent for the word, but the feelings connected are certainly universal. Illustrator Ariel Landy (Gitty and Kvetch) contributes cheerful characters with lively expressions through cartoonish artwork with soft lines and vibrant colors. The parallel relationship between Jillian’s cat and Bubbe’s dog adds a particularly humorous substory. Backmatter includes family resources and recipes for three soups. An adorably charismatic and accepting story honoring problem-solving and found families.”
— Shelf Awareness, starred review
“Jillian likes her new stepfather but isn’t sure about her new grandmother.
Bubbe, Yiddish for grandmother, is very loving, but Jillian does not appreciate this affection. She already has two grandmas—Gram and Noni—and a great-grandma. She doesn’t need a person who gives lipstick-laden kisses and introduces new holidays and words (kvelling and kvetching) she doesn’t understand. When her mom insists that Jillian “give Bubbe a chance,” Jillian, tan-skinned with brown hair, reluctantly agrees to join her “brand-new” grandmother as Bubbe prepares soup and teaches Jillian to make perfect matzah balls. After tasting the delicious concoction, Jillian plans a celebration for everyone: her mother, her stepfather, her father, and all her grandmothers (and her great-grandma). The three grandmas make their special soups and create a feast for everyone—a lovely way to bring a blended family together. Humorous, expressive illustrations track Jillian’s many moods; the interactions between Bubbe’s dog and her cat are especially funny. Filled with good tastes and intentions, the story will ring true where families have stayed friendly after divorce and remarriage. Jillian’s family is a diverse one—Bubbe is Jewish, and the family members range in skin tone. Backmatter includes recipes for all three grannies’ soups (Bubbe’s matzah ball soup, Noni’s Italian wedding soup, and Gram’s gazpacho). (This book was reviewed digitally.)
A winning reminder that though family might evolve, it’s always anchored by love.”
“When her mom remarries, Jillian gets a new stepdad and a new bubbe. Since she already has a Noni and a Gram, Jillian is not interested in adding anyone else new to her family. Bubbe can’t seem to win Jillian’s affections no matter what she tries. But when she brings over the ingredients to make matzo ball soup, Jillian can’t resist.
After slurping down a few bowls, she has an idea. Jillian invites all three of her grandmothers — plus her dad and her great-grandmother —for a ’Super Soup Celebration.’ Noni makes Italian meatball soup, Gram makes gazpacho and of course, Bubbe makes matzo ball soup. And, Jillian quickly realizes, ’Like soup, family was made with love. And there was always room for more.’
The final page spread shows Jillian’s pregnant mother, and observant readers will be delighted to discover an adorable new sibling running across the endpages. Bright, colorful, expressive illustrations depict a fun-loving, contemporary, multicultural, and interfaith blended family. And it’s refreshing to see three bicycle-riding and basketball-playing grandmothers: Bubbe with frizzy red hair and hip purple glasses; petite Gram in a stylish headband, hiking boots, and shorts; and tall, slender Noni with a red beret and pearls.
All three soup recipes, with detailed instructions, are appended along with a list of resources for inter-faith and blended families. Similar to Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer, illustrated by Deborah Melmon (Kar-Ben, 2016), and Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy, illustrated by Valeria Cis (Kar-Ben, 2010), young readers who can personally relate to Jillian will feel validated and seen, and all readers will discover that ’family is more than blood’ and ’there is no one right way to blend a family.’ As Aronson writes in her afterward: ’The only mandatory ingredients for celebrating your family are patience, humor, and of course, lots and lots of love!'”
—Rachel Kamin, Jewish Book Council