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Tomatoes for Neela

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Neela loves cooking with her amma and writing down the recipes in her notebook. It makes her feel closer to her paati who lives far away in India. On Saturdays, Neela and Amma go to the green market and today they are buying tomatoes to make Paati's famous sauce. But first, Neela needs to learn about all the different kinds of tomatoes they can pick from. And as Neela and Amma cook together, they find a way for Paati to share in both the love and the flavors of the day.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published August 31, 2021

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About the author

Padma Lakshmi

12 books111 followers
Padma Lakshmi is the Emmy-nominated host of the highly rated and critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning Bravo series Top Chef, and the author of three cookbooks and food titles: the award-winning Easy Exotic; Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet; and the Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs. In addition to her culinary achievements, Lakshmi has contributed to such magazines as Vogue, Gourmet, and Harper's Bazaar (UK and US), and penned a syndicated column on fashion and food for the New York Times. Her television-hosting credits include Planet Food and Padma's Passport, as well as other programs in the United States and abroad. A global style icon and the first internationally successful Indian supermodel, Lakshmi also helms companies of her own such as the Padma Collection and Easy Exotic.

Lakshmi is a cofounder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Since 2009, the organization has advocated for early diagnosis, promoted research, and raised awareness in the medical community and the greater public about this devastating chronic disease which affects over 190 million women worldwide.

She lives in New York City with her daughter.

(source: Amazon)

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5 stars
312 (44%)
4 stars
289 (41%)
3 stars
93 (13%)
2 stars
8 (1%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 155 reviews
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
4,755 reviews636 followers
May 4, 2022
Mother and daughter make tomato sauce together while also making new memories. The memories also connect both to grandma; soon they will share the sauce with her when she comes to visit. A very sweet book about how recipes passed down through the generations bind families closer. Plus a great recipe for tomato sauce and tomato cutney at the end of the book!
Profile Image for Deborah.
731 reviews47 followers
December 26, 2021
Neela and Amma love to cook. Both Neela and her mother copy recipes into their notebooks. Saturday is green market day. The abundance of tomatoes in their tomato sauce reminds Neela of her paati who lives distantly away in India. Neela loves cooking with her amma listening to the clinking of the bangles on her mother’s wrists. There are even Paati’s Tomato Sauce and Neela’s Tomato Chutney recipes to cook and savor. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Hannah.
Author 6 books203 followers
April 11, 2021
I would have loved it based on Juana alone, but it's just so lovely overall, from the sweet, gentle story to the delicious food writing to the politics it weaves in seamlessly. Excuse me while I preorder a copy for everyone I know.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,140 reviews
October 7, 2021
Warm, lovely, comforting -- just like the food and family it celebrates. I love the gentle way it shows how food can deeply connect us to family and cultural traditions. I don't have experience with any of Padma Lakshmi's other endeavors, but I was impressed with the storytelling in this picture book. I'm a big fan of Juana Martinez-Neal's illustrations and they are wonderful here. Highly recommended to young chefs or anyone looking for books celebrating family and traditions. Includes two recipes, and some back matter, including a note about the importance of farm workers and providing them safe and fair employment opportunities.
Profile Image for Emily.
48 reviews3 followers
December 1, 2021
I think this is my favorite picture book of 2021! 🤩 I adored the sweet, multigenerational story and the illustrations are stunning! *Bonus - there are interesting facts all about tomatoes!
Profile Image for Renee.
199 reviews3 followers
January 14, 2022
Really loved this one! It’s a simple story about cooking and canning tomatoes to store for winter when tomatoes are no longer seasonal. But the book is much more than that, capturing the intense closeness of cooking and eating together, the way that a sense of family and culture are transmitted through food, and the connection we feel to the earth when we cook with vegetables. Predictably, Padma Lackshmi can really write about food!

Juana Martínez-Neal illustrations are bursting with warmth and love.

A great book to read along with Kevin Maillard’s Fry Bread, Linda Sue Park’s Bi-Bim Bop!, or Farhana Zia’s Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji
Profile Image for Amy.
1,080 reviews
December 4, 2021
For anyone who loves tomatoes, cooking, and family cookbooks with passed-down recipes. Delish!
Profile Image for Beth Voecks.
292 reviews8 followers
September 10, 2021
I adored this book for several reasons:
1. The art is gorgeous!
2. The story, although short and sweet, is engaging and educational.
3. I love Padma and that she's not afraid to eat and show the world that she loves food!
4. The book is about family, culture, and delicious food!
5. I love TOMATOES!
Profile Image for Thompson McLeod.
150 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2021
Beautiful, ethereal illustrations (acrylic paints and colored pencils on hand-textured papers) lovingly capture a young girl learning to cook and her relationship with her amma (mother) and her paati (grandmother) who lives far away in India. Through cooking, the mother and daughter embrace their family's heritage.

Neela loves cooking with her mother and writing down each recipe in her notebook. A cloth-covered book Neela is sure, "...belonged to a wizard," sits on a shelf in the kitchen. It is her paati's recipe book. Amma takes Neela to the market on Saturdays where they buy ingredients for the week's meals. The market is alive with people selling and buying all sorts of fresh produce. Neela is excited to learn more about the tomatoes they will need to cook paati's favorite tomato sauce.

Neela learns to use produce that is in season and to can the rest for the long winter. Young readers will learn the names of types of tomatoes and their history. Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi includes two of her family's recipes: Neela's Tomato Chutney and Paati's Tomato Sauce and fun facts about tomatoes and a note about farmworkers with a brief bibliography of books about farm workers for children.

Caldecott Honor Winner illustrator Juana Martinez_Neal will likely win another honor with her work on the lovely picture book.

Highly, highly recommended ages 3-7.
Profile Image for Karen Foster.
666 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2022
I picked up a signed book of this gorgeously illustrated picture book on Black Friday at B&N (being a total Padma fan girl!) The story is beautiful, touching on themes of family and tradition, shared stories, seasonal, local food and respect for the farmers hard work. A wonderful message, and a perfect accompaniment to Padma’s fantastic Hulu series, ‘Taste the Nation’. What I found most touching was the memories of cooking with my mother, my mother-in-law and step-mother-in-law over the years. I treasure the recipes, and these moments so deeply. And can’t wait to try the recipes!
Profile Image for Kireja.
324 reviews20 followers
January 7, 2022
2022 Book Riot Read Harder challenge task # 4: Read a book in any genre by a POC that’s about joy and not trauma.

Tomatoes for Neela is truly a celebration of food and family. Paired with Juana Martinez-Neal's illustrations, which adds warmth and softness to the story, Lakshmi's storytelling shows how food can bring different generations together as well as provide opportunities for children to learn about different cultural traditions. I also love how the book encourages getting children into the kitchen at an early age so that they can not only develop a good relationship with food, but learn about math, geography, history, food sustainability, and about where our food comes from. The book also includes two recipes- one for tomato sauce and the other for tomato chutney- as well as fun facts about tomatoes and information about migrant and seasonal farmworkers and the work that they do so that we can have access to a wide range of food. Tomatoes for Neela is a great learning resource! I even learned a thing or two myself about the different varieties of tomatoes and where the word "tomato" comes from.
Profile Image for Shameem.
101 reviews4 followers
August 23, 2022
I was on the hunt for the perfect book to gift to my 5 year old niece, and wasn’t expecting to actually find the perfect book. I am so happy she gets to live in a world where there are books that reflect her identity; our identity. I would have loved this book as a 5 year old, but I’m grateful I got to experience it as a thirtysomething.

Neela and her Amma go on countless culinary adventures in their kitchen, documenting their recipes (Amma in her recipe book, Neela in her journal), and the most special recipe is one for tomato sauce originally from Neela’s paati. Neela loves finding ways to make her feel closer to her paati, who lives far away in India, and looks forward to her next visit so they can cook together.

Padma Lakshmi’s story (coupled with Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustrations) is so beautiful and one that so many children in immigrant families will connect with: the joy of holding onto your native culture but also finding magical ways to weave it with the new cultures around you, and the sadness of being oceans away from your loved ones. The book ends with some delicious recipes for kids and their families to try.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
368 reviews26 followers
December 18, 2021
Neela is a little girl who loves cooking in the kitchen with her amma. Cooking family recipes helps her feel close to her paati who lives far away in India. Together, Neela and her amma make flan, rice pilaf, chimichurri, spicy lentil stew, saffron rice, and all sorts of other delicious family recipes. But best of all... they make Paati's famous tomato sauce! In this heartfelt book, family and culture are celebrated through a story that reminds us of all the sweet things that tie us together even while we are apart.

This is such a sweet story about the love we can feel as families through cooking and spending special moments together. Each illustration is a masterpiece. I would love to see the original artwork! All of the splashes of paint, textures, colors, and sweeping brushstrokes are breathtaking. It is truly a visual feast. And speaking of feasts... all the foods and recipes in this book sound delicious! Recipes are included at the back of the book including Paati's Tomato Sauce and Neela's Tomato Chutney.

This is an absolutely beautiful picture book brimming with culture, color, and gorgeous illustrations. It is sure to warm your heart. (And, quite possibly, your kitchen!)
22 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2022
This is another great book that shows culture through cooking and I always really enjoy these because many children have memories of cooking with families and it can bring people closer together. I really enjoyed this one because it also discusses going to markets and getting food from the farmers around you. Many children can even have a learning experience from going through these books because they might not know more than just going to the grocery store, or some unfortunately might not even have that experience. With that being said, I can see how this book could be a mirror or a window for different children because some may have never cooked with families or sadly struggle with food insecurity. This is also a great example of a mirror because children from this culture can see some of the food they may know well and also have those experiences of cooking with family and getting food fresh.
8 reviews
Want to read
November 28, 2022
The story follows a young girl named Neela who likes to cook and writes her family recipes into a book. From there the story follows Neela going to the market and buying tomatoes to make a sauce. The story then follows Neela with her mom cooking in the kitchen and follows the cooking process of making (said) sauce, along with a history of tomatoes and their origin. The book ends with Neela finishing the sauce and showing her grandma and saves some for her grandma to try when she comes over. This book's theme is about cultural identity and family values which is something that adults can use to teach their kids about other cultures and also for adults and children to grow closer with one another with the example of cooking in this story. Maybe and just maybe parents can follow the example of cooking and translate it to other activities in order to have a strong connection with their children just like Neela and her mom. This book was a WOW book for me because I could relate to the main character as she comes from a culture that emphasizes cooking and their spices. Through her it brought me back to the time where I could just imagine myself in the kitchen cooking with my African grandma, food really does bring people together.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
1,439 reviews51 followers
December 9, 2021
Tomatoes for Neela is so good! This was a really cute story about the ways food can connect us, the bonding moments that cooking together can bring, and facts about tomatoes thrown in for good measure! The recipes at the end sound fantastic, I'm saving them. And the art! I've read a few other things illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, and this is probably her best work, every page is gorgeous.

Overall this was a great book, and I would definitely recommend it (especially for any families that do any cooking with the little ones).
Profile Image for Erin *BookDragon_Library*.
810 reviews9 followers
March 11, 2022
Awe this is a gorgeous book about a girl cooking with her mom and a love letter to garden fresh tomatoes that makes me drool. This book is gorgeously illustrated and an ode to the beauty of a fresh ingredient. Most pages either feature tomatoes or beautiful red flowers in the backdrop. There are two recipes in the back, some tomato facts, and a note about farmworkers and some resources to learn about the fight for farm workers civil rights which I thought was a wonderful touch.

Notes: Cooking, India, Recipe in back, family traditions
Profile Image for Tonya.
43 reviews
September 29, 2021
I tend to have no patience for celebrity authors (there are a few exceptions). I was surprised to see who the author of this was AFTER I read it. (Don't judge. It's been a long two years, and I'm a lot less observant these days!) I really enjoyed this story, love a book that includes recipes, and will definitely share it with coworkers! Very excited to find an exception to my rule! :)
Profile Image for Marisa.
172 reviews19 followers
November 1, 2021
Love, love, love!! Not only is this book illustrated by one of my favorite picture book artists, but it's such a beautiful homage to food and family. Also, the color scheme in this is just perfect - I just keep flipping back and forth absorbing all of the beautiful rose and teal hues. And I cannot wait to make the two recipes that are included! Definitely a must buy for me
5 reviews11 followers
January 31, 2023
A very sweet book with beautiful illustrations along! This was very nostalgic for me and i loved making my son listen to it.. he loved it too!
A tad too long for a 3 year old that has very little focus!
I will keep reading it to him as he grows old!
Profile Image for Anthony.
5,101 reviews25 followers
October 9, 2021
Neela spends time with her mother in their kitchen preparing and cooking many different foods, but Neela's favorite time is when Summer ends, and their time is spent preparing all the harvested tomatoes for Fall and Winter storage and use. This story shares some history about the use and cultivation of tomatoes, provides recipes for two dishes, and displays how family togetherness can be shared and made memorable.
Profile Image for Bethe.
5,794 reviews51 followers
May 14, 2022
Lovely ode to family, farm workers, cooking, and tomatoes! Love the lush, warm illustrations! Love the variety of foods they make! Recipes, tomato facts, and farm worker history included.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
232 reviews1 follower
December 5, 2022
Asian American Heritage Month
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Marina.
912 reviews
January 24, 2023
Lovely read! My husband is South Indian and my daughter has those roots as well - she talks to her Paati everyday thru Skype and I just loved seeing women and girls connect thru food
Profile Image for Molly Cluff (Library!).
2,344 reviews30 followers
November 18, 2021
Wow, a lovely book about traditions that are packed with so much history and meaning! I learned a thing or two about tomatoes and culture, and enjoyed the time spent with this sweet family in lush, rich illustrations! I'm very tempted to try all the recipes at the back, too
Profile Image for Katie Reilley.
765 reviews27 followers
June 10, 2021
I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

With beautiful story and soft, gentle illustrations, this picture book takes readers across three generations on a delicious journey of mouth-watering flavors and family connectedness. Readers will feel right at home in Neela and Amma's kitchen as they spend the day making Paati's famous sauce.

Back-matter includes tomato fun facts, treasured recipes, and an author's note.

I'll be preordering for my classroom to share after it's released in August 2021.
Profile Image for J.J. LeVan.
6 reviews
December 6, 2022
This is currently my favorite children's book.

The Food Network author shares memories from the family kitchen and the bond that cooking together created. The story is sweet & tender and the illustrations are a feast for anyone's eyes.

I love Tomatoes For Neela and bought a copy just for me.
Profile Image for Pine Reads Review.
394 reviews8 followers
December 13, 2021
“Neela loved listening to her amma tell stories while they cooked together. Many of these tales had been passed down from mothers to their daughters.”

Neela loves cooking with her amma at home, though she misses Paati, her grandmother, in India. Neela’s warm kitchen is always bursting with the most flavorful dishes and aromatic smells, from ramen and dosas to sweet mango pudding. She always tries her best to be helpful in the kitchen as her amma tells her how each dish is made, much like many past generations of mothers and daughters have done. As Neela watches her mother write down recipes in her special cookbook, she feels closer to her Paati, too. At the green market, Neela is ecstatic to see the fresh, end-of-summer produce piled high here and there, but the tomatoes are especially exciting. Together, she and her amma learn about the history and use of tomatoes while they make a special sauce. Neela makes sure to save some for her Paati’s next visit!

Tomatoes for Neela is a sweet, wonderful book about cooking, feeling connected to your culture, food history, and an intergenerational story all wrapped in one lovely, watercolor bow. There is a lot of text, which contains details about Neela’s feelings on her family, as well as the kinds of dishes she cooks. I think the labels of the different dishes and different kinds of tomatoes are a great way to get kids more interested in cooking, in addition to the importance of feeling cultural connections. There is even a recipe for Paati’s special tomato sauce in the back matter! Juana Martinez-Neal’s delicate yet bright illustrations really help make the book feel as warm as a kitchen filled with family love. I loved the inclusion of gray illustrations of Neela’s Paati looking over her shoulder, showing the impact family has on her as well as the way recipes are passed down over generations. For a vibrant, loving story that’s just as heartwarming as it is mouth-watering, you’ll want to find a copy of Tomatoes for Neela.

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Profile Image for Barbara.
12.9k reviews264 followers
September 26, 2021
With its warm and mouth-wateringly delicious text and illustrations--yes, they made me want to make some sauce or salsa of my own--this picture book is a 3.5 for me. I couldn't stop gazing at each of the images, created with acrylics and colored pencils, because each page seemed to beckon into someone's loving home and kitchen, where the heart of the home is. Neela and her mother bond over cooking their favorite dishes, and every time they are in the kitchen, Neela is reminded of her beloved grandmother whose recipe book Neela hopes to inherit one day. From heading to the market to select the right kind of tomatoes to learning a bit about the history of tomatoes and her family stories, Neela soaks up every experience and saves each one to share with her grandmother when she comes for a visit from India. There are pages in which readers can see her presence hovering over Neela as though she's there even when she isn't actually there. The author has included a recipe for tomato sauce and tomato chutney as well as tidbits of information about tomatoes and farmworkers in the back matter. The love that both author and illustrator have for good food, cooking, and family shines through in every line and illustration. Not only will Neela have a new appreciation for tomatoes, but so will this book's readers. YUM! YUM! YUM!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 155 reviews

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