FICTION

Sauerkraut

Knopf. Sept. 2019. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781524765958.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3-6–Maker and superhero-loving HD Schenk has a plan to build his own computer from scratch and enter it into the county fair this summer. But first he must earn enough money to buy parts, so he offers to help clear out his uncle’s basement. On his first trip downstairs, HD encounters a ghostly voice. When he finds an old pickling crock that had been used by his great-great grandmother (Oma) to make sauerkraut, HD realizes that Oma is haunting the crock and she has a singular mission: to enter her sauerkraut in the county fair and win. As the only person who can hear Oma’s voice, HD is compelled to help her but has trouble balancing his own dreams and goals for the summer with the demanding Oma’s. Instead of keeping Oma a secret, HD introduces her first to his best friend Eli and then to his family and trusted members of his community. Oma is a strong enough ghost to work a pencil (among other kitchen equipment) and communicates with everyone through notes. This thoroughly quirky tale highlights the importance of mutual respect, community, and family heritage. HD, who is biracial and bicultural (black and German American), must constantly explain why he doesn’t look like his dad, and has integrated his parents’ different cultural backgrounds into his worldview. The grown-ups encourage HD and his friend to make time for their own goals and summer plans and respectfully accept Oma into their lives. Lists and plans and scientific observations of various projects are featured throughout, as well as warm, evocative pencil illustrations by Davey.
VERDICT A ghost story about family heritage and obligations that will appeal to fans of family-driven, slice-of-life tales.

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