Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Jones, Kelly. Sauerkraut
September 10th 2019 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Hans Dieter Schenk has learned a lot about his mother's African American culture, but not as much about his father's German heritage. When his Uncle Gregor ends up with a lot of family heirlooms in his basement, he pays HD to clean out and organize things. This takes time away from building his computer and helping his friend Mr. Ziedrich with his goats, but HD and his friend Eli try to balance everything. When they are cleaning, HD sees the ghost of his great-great grandmother, Marietta Schenk, who wants to be called Oma. She is tied to a pickle crock, and Eli can't see her, but she is insistent that HD help her make sauerkraut to enter in the local competition so she can become the Pickle Queen. HD and Eli run a few experiments to see if Oma is legitimate, and then try their best to gather the ingredients to make sauerkraut. They tell Mr. Ziedrich, who lives in a nursing home but helps HD build computers, and he feels they must tell HD's parents. The boys introduce Oma to the parents, and they all set down the house rules about cooking and using kraut cutters. They also have a talk about mental health, letting the boys know if they see or hear anything else that no one else hears, they should report it! With the help of other supportive adults, such as the local librarian and women who run the junk yard, the boys manage to make the sauerkraut and also get a computer built. When Oma's sauerkraut is to be judged at the same time as HD's tech entry, there are some tense moments, but some creative thinking finds a work around. Oma's sauerkraut doesn't win a prize, but the family gives her her own pickle parade. She still hasn't decided to move on, which is okay with HD, since he has enjoyed learning about his father's side of the family.
Strengths: It was great that the author consulted with Sundee Frazier, who wrote Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything In It (2008); there are a lot more children with mixed racial backgrounds than there were eleven years ago, so it's good to see HD connect with some ancestors. He is also a Maker and a black geek. His friend Eli dances. There are goats and goat agility competitions. IT's always interesting to read books where children DO things, and HD has a lot of varied interests.          Weaknesses: It's great that Jones portrays HD as a responsible person who lets them know all about the ghost so he isn't in danger, but I sort of miss the days of Ruth Chew where parents go on vacation, leave the children with random older woman, and they sneak a homeless wizard into the attic to stay with them (The Trouble with Magic, 1976)! Just this summer I started to notice that #MGLit has gotten super politically correct. (All the characters seem to have gay uncles, for example.) Not surprised, just... feeling old. What fun is it to have a ghost if you tell your parents?
What I really think: This should be filed under humorous stories rather than scary ghost ones, but is a great choice for children who like magical realism and who enjoyed this author's Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

Happy Cardigan Day!


  1. Cardigans forever--especially for librarians!

  2. My background is German (my grandfather came to the US directly from Germany) and so my heart is thrilled to see a book about learning to make sauerkraut.
    Cardigans forever!