Sonderbooks Book Review of

Sugar in Milk

by Thrity Umrigar

illustrated by Khoa Le

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Sugar in Milk

by Thrity Umrigar
illustrated by Khoa Le

Review posted March 2, 2021.
RP Kids, Philadelphia, 2020. 48 pages.
Review written January 9, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review
2021 Capitol Choices selection, age 7-10.

This gorgeously illustrated and lyrical picture book contains a story-within-a-story.

It begins with a spread of a girl alone in a snowy city, pulling a suitcase behind her.

When I first came to this country,
I felt so alone.

Although the girl knows her aunt and uncle are happy to have her and try to be welcoming, she misses her parents and her family and even her cats, Kulfi and Baklava.

Then her Auntie tells her a story, and that part is set off with decorated borders that get gradually more elaborate. The story tells of a group people long ago who had to leave their home and travel to a distant land.

But the local king did not want to let them in.
“Our land is too crowded,” he grumbled,
“with no room for others.
Besides, these visitors look foreign
and speak a strange and different language
I do not understand.”

But when the travelers don’t understand him (because they speak a strange and different language), he shows them they have no room, by filling a royal cup with milk, all the way to the brim.

But a wise man among the travelers took out a spoon and mixed sugar into the milk. And I won’t spoil the lovely way the lesson is presented, but it’s done lyrically, fittingly accompanying the beautiful pictures.

And the girl’s Auntie doesn’t have to tell her the moral of the story, but it changes everything for her.

I began to smile at the people we passed,
and they returned my smile.
Everybody I said hello to said hello back to me.
Even the dogs seemed friendlier
and wagged their tails faster.

I love the way this book tells a simple story that’s so rich with application – but leaves the application to the children who hear the story. It’s a good story for someone who’s lonely as well as for someone who’s not but who needs to have compassion on those who are.

And the artistry of this book is lovely for the eyes and fingers both. And for the ears, it’s written in the musical language of legends.