Reviews /

Faruq and the Wiri Wiri

Authored by Sophia Payne
Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat
Published by Templar Publishing

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This delightful picture book, Faruq and the Wiri Wiri offers a window into Guyanese culture, a window that leads the reader into Ajee’s kitchen. With a little garlic, some sweet coconut and a few Wiri Wiri peppers Ajee’s cook-up rice is on the way and the story begins. Faruq, Ajee’s grandson, is keen to sample the wiri wiri peppers. Hang on Faruq, there is no time for taste testing because Ajee has forgotten the bay leaves!

Just like her kitchen, Ajee’s garden is bursting with colour and many flavours. Sandhya Prabhat’s vibrant illustrations complement and bring the story to life beautifully. Plump tomatoes, shiny beans and fragrant rosemary. Faruq selects two bay leaves for the rice. Proudly he returns to his grandma, where he proudly states that he would love to be a cook when he is older. His grandma has a different idea. She tells Faruq that he must be a doctor like his father and study hard.

Faruq has different ideas about his future, he dreams of baking lime cookies and bread and preparing his own cook-up rice. Whilst playing in the garden, the wiri wiri bush (Guyanese pepper plant) catches his eye. He asks himself, what is so special about wiri wiri chilli peppers? Listening through the fence is Mrs Joseph who lives next door. Mrs Joseph divulges a secret. She shares that she taught Faruq’s grandma to cook.

Mrs Joseph offers to teach Faruq an easy recipe; Lime cookies (the recipe features on the back page). During this cookery lesson, Faruq realises that cooking isn’t as easy as it looks. Great cooks must practice and practice to hone their craft. Each day Faruq returns to Mrs Joseph’s kitchen to perfect his culinary skills. They bake, boil, sift and stir. Mrs Joseph shares the wonders of the wiri wiri and its place in the Guyanese culture. At last, he has the knowledge of the wiri wiri plant!

Every Sunday the family come together in grandma’s kitchen for lunch. Sadly, grandma is unwell and suggests that the lunch will have to be cancelled. Grandma suggests to Faruq that some fever grass tea will help her recover. Once in the garden, Faruq had another idea. Barley soup with wiri wiri will help grandma feel better! Mrs Joseph and Faruq set to work. The soup was the perfect fix for Ajee’s fever. At this moment Faruq realised that there was no need to cancel the Sunday lunch because he now possessed all the skills to prepare the lunch himself.

This debut picture book from Sophia Payne is a wonderful celebration of food, family and culture. It is a celebration of determination, practice, and the value of wellness from the food around us. This book would be a fantastic addition to your school’s book collection.