When I’m trying to be helpful, I cook. In a crisis, I cook. Celebrating a happy occasion? I’ll cook. In fact, regardless of what’s happening, I’ll be thinking, “What can I cook?”
Which makes me and Molly, the little girl at the centre of Kate Hunter’s new picture book, A Curry for Murray, kindred spirits. When Molly’s neighbour, Murray, needs help (his wife is sick in hospital), Molly decides to make him a curry. Chicken, potatoes, coriander, coconut milk, ginger and chilli are simmered for Murray’s curry and the result is delicious. In fact, it’s so good that Murray tells everyone what a fine cook Molly is.
Very soon, Molly’s dishes are in demand – tuna spaghetti for Mum’s best friend Betty, a chicken taco for cousin Marco, slippery duck pasta for her brother’s headmaster and spit-roasted geese for the local police. Word travels and Molly becomes inundated with calls, texts and emails from around the world, requesting her culinary creations. She makes “… a lobster roll for a teacher in Seoul and juicy pulled pork for a nun in New York.”
But an unexpected accident means Molly can’t cook and it’s time for Molly to accept kindness in return from her neighbours – what will they make for her?
Hunter’s inspiration for the story came from helping out her neighbour (who really is called Murray) while his wife was in hospital. And Hunter’s daughter really did say “We should make a curry for Murray!” Of the book, Hunter says, “When so much is said and written about how we’re becoming disconnected from our neighbours and communities, I think of how quickly people mobilise the ‘casserole crew’ and the world feels like it’s actually right.”
While the story’s message focuses on the importance of community and social responsibility, the fun is in the silly rhymes – what do you think rhymes with Singapore noodles? Why, the Montague poodles, of course!
Lucia Masciullo’s meticulous watercolour ‘illustrated recipes’ are nothing short of mouth-watering and are an important lesson in themselves – not all children know or appreciate that meals are usually made of lots of ingredients. Expect a few eager little helpers in the kitchen after this story has been read!
A Curry for Murray is suitable for children aged three years and over. Find it in all good book stores or online at Readings.