Oaklee’s Book Review: Maddi’s Fridge

When Lois Brandt was a young girl, she opened her best friend’s refrigerator and discovered that her family had no food. “I didn’t know what to do as a child facing this horrible issue,” she says. “I didn’t know how to help my friend.”

As a children’s fiction writer, she captured that experience in a colorfully illustrated children’s picture book called “Maddi’s Fridge.”

Maddi's Fridge Always Friends

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 20 percent of American children – one in every five – live in households that struggle to afford food. Chances are that your child will have classmates whose families are struggling to put food on the table. Brandt’s book gives parents a vehicle for talking with thier children about this serious issue.

While burdening a child with a complex issue at too early of an age may frighten or confuse them, it’s important to ensure they’re prepared for what they most certainly will be exposed to, says former Peace Corps volunteer and children’s author Lois Brandt.

Here are her tips on how to talk to children about the widespread problem of child hunger.

•  Young children may not understand complex issues; keep the discussion  age-appropriate. While it’s important to be honest with children about issues they may encounter, adults do not have to scare or confuse them.

“When I read ‘Maddi’s Fridge’ in classrooms,” Brandt says. “I’ll ask what the book is about. The very first hand in the air always says ‘friendship.’ I was very careful to ensure that the story gently entertains. First- through fourth-graders laugh at eggs in backpacks and Vin Vogel’s great illustrations.”

•  Have a brainstorming session on what makes a good friend. This puts the discussion in terms that children are comfortable with. Talk about times when you were a child and helped your friends. Ask your child to tell you about a time he or she helped a friend on the playground or in the classroom. Emphasizing the web of relationships we all live in will empower your child with a sense of community, even when facing large problems.

•  Discuss with your child ways they can help. Children want to know where they fit, what their role is. Let you child know that he or she can be part of the fight against childhood hunger. Bring food to a food bank, take meals to a needy family, support food drives by your school and religious organization.  Suggestions for ways to help can be found on websites for organizations  like Feeding America (www.FeedingAmerica.org), a national network of food banks, or on Maddisfridge.com.

About Lois Brandt

Lois Brandt is a children’s fiction writer whose work has appeared in Highlights and other fine children’s magazines. Her new book, “Maddi’s Fridge,” (www.MaddisFridge.com), illustrated by Vin Vogel, is the first picture book to address child hunger in the United States. It was inspired by Brandt’s childhood memory of opening her friend’s refrigerator and finding only condiments and a lunch milk carton her friend had saved from school for her little brother. Ten percent of proceeds from sales of “Maddi’s Fridge” go to hunger solutions. Brandt, who holds an MFA from Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.