The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney
Margaret Wild & Dan Wild
Walker Books, 2021
25pp., hbk., RRP $A25.99
Martha Maloney is on an excursion with her class to the Museum of Famous People – it’s a visit she has looked forward to all term because she has a unique way of exploring the life and times of those who have gone before. Although her long-suffering teacher Mrs Souza warns her that “eating and drinking is absolutely, totally forbidden here”, Martha doesn’t hear a word because she is off having meals with the various folks she finds -King Henry VIII, Princess Marie Antoinette, Queen Nefertiti , Emperor Claudius, and Emperor Puyi travelling not only through time but also countries.
Accompanying the spectacular illustrations is a commentary by Martha about the person and the banquet she finds herself at as well as the menu and fascinating endnotes that give a few facts about her host and the food of the time, all held together by the increasingly overwhelmed Mrs Souza who, as any teacher knows finds keeping lids together on an excursion is like the proverbial herding cats.
So far this review year, there has been a thread of discovering history – Our Country: Ancient Wonders; BANG! The Story of How Life on Earth Began; Earth is Big; Australian Backyard Explorer; and The History of Everywhere , each giving a different perspective and offering ways to help our students explore times past through their various lenses and interests. The Amazing Meals of Martha Maloney continues this trend offering a new way to investigate a people and their times, either expanding on those offered by the creators or by selecting someone at a different time who interests them. They could even compare the tables of the rich and famous of the time with those of the ordinary people, investigating the choices and the differences; compare the banquet of Henry VIII to that of Emperor Puyi and examine the menu’s variety and what were considered delicacies where while comparing them to a similar occasion here… For those wanting a more modern and immediate focus they could compare what were considered festive foods in the time of their great-grandparents to what they eat (in the 50s, roast chicken was the Christmas table treat) and perhaps even develop an extra entry for the book based on a 21st century treat. They could investigate the food of their classmates and how it varies from what their own dinner table looks like, perhaps even culminating in an international food fest and recipe book!
If we consider food to be the essential common denominator across time and place, there is endless inspiration in this unique book that I believe will feature in many awards lists this year.