(Darlene here: When Claire approached me about doing a review post of a recent favorite children’s book, I was thrilled. Here is her review of a delightful story perfect for summer and beyond.)
Debut children’s author Chris Whitson offers a resounding message of joy, adventure, and friendship in “Salty Strong: The ‘Whole’ Cajun Story” (May 2020, Archway Publishing). The story is imaginative and sure to appeal to children ages five to eight, and adults alike. The book is beautifully illustrated by Stephen Adams and colorist Susan Shorter, and the captivating pictures will no doubt pull younger children into the book.
Salty Strong celebrates learning about new cultures, having different experiences, and the unlimited power of friendship and giving. Salty, as his name reflects, is a boy made of salt who lives in a cave in Louisiana. He frolics with his animal friends in the surrounding swamps and lands, and cooks and cares for the critters. But it is not just any cave, but an ancient salt dome where the young lad and his animal friends live.
One day a crew of salt miners change Salty’s world when they crush his body-made-of-salt into granules while mining the salt in the cave and put him into a saltshaker. Soon his Cajun spirit is on the way to New Orleans, where a grumpy and not-very-good-at-cooking chef buys him as a granulated boy in the saltshaker.
Salty, still captive in his glass shaker, finds himself in a kitchen in the French Quarters of New Orleans, where he discovers the chef really does not know how to season food. In short order, Salty also meets a shy girl who is made of ground peppercorns. Like Salty, she is captured in a shaker. Together they become friends and find that by pouring themselves into the chef’s creations, they make his dishes delicious. But they are literally given of themselves as they pour their grains into his food.
While this is going on, Pep—the peppercorn girl—teaches Salty about her native culture in India, and he teaches her about his Cajun culture.
The ending celebrates Salty and Pep becoming whole again, and is delightfully well illustrated in this sincere, charming book.
When author Chris Whitson was asked what he wanted kids to take away from the story, he answered:
“At some point everyone has struggles and may feel ‘crushed’ like Salty. It may be a struggle with bullying, illness, addiction, loneliness… Hang in there, have Faith, give of yourself, and open your heart to others. You will become whole and stronger than ever!”
For more information on Chris and Salty Strong, you can check out his presskit here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SRthh6BgYHpPRa1oiHFcigZD0IuXAsLvK9Q8zSAc9oc/edit?usp=sharing and please let me know if you’d like any more information!
Bio: Claire Matturro, a former lawyer and college teacher, is the author of seven mysteries, including the award-winning Lilly Belle Cleary series of comedic legal thrillers published by HarperCollins. Her newest book, The Smuggler’s Daughter (Red Adept Publishing July 2020), is a gripping past-meets-present tale of murder and hidden identities. Best-selling legal thriller author Robert Bailey says “The Smuggler’s Daughter is an intoxicating and pulsating thriller that I literally couldn’t put down.” Shamus and Edgar-winning mystery writer James W. Hall says, “at once, scary, gripping, moving, and populated by unforgettable characters.” Visit Claire at http://www.clairematturro.com/