[Review] Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed, Illustrated by Anoosha Syed

From the author of Written in the Stars and Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed debuts her picture book about Bilal, a young boy who wants to share a dish meaningful not only to him, but to his Pakistani culture. With friends from around the neighborhood popping up and curious about the titular dish, Bilal wonders if they’ll like it as much as he does.



Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 4 June 2019

Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre(s): Picture Book/Cultural/South Asian (Pakistan)/Food & Drink

Six-year-old Bilal introduces his friends to his favorite dish—daal!—in this charming picture book that showcases the value of patience, teamwork, community, and sharing.

Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?

This debut picture book by Aisha Saeed, with charming illustrations by Anoosha Syed, uses food as a means of bringing a community together to share in each other’s family traditions.


4 star



Representation: Pakistani MC, diverse cast of side characters



what i enjoyed



Aisha skillfully conveyed how much emotion there was for Bilal throughout the story: there was joy at cooking a beloved dish with his father, nervousness at sharing it with his friends (especially when they commented on how different it was from their typical food), the fun he had with his friends while waiting for the daal to cook, the anticipation. There was a lot of buildup that spread from Bilal to his friends and that antsy feeling of excitement also became something that the reader will be able to feel, I think, watching as more and more children gather and wonder: when will the daal be ready?

Anoosha’s artwork blended a brightness (without tipping the scale too much) with a softness of the illustrations themselves. This, combined with Aisha’s story itself, made each page a new discovery, a wonder to explore as I read.



what i didn't enjoy - Copy



The writing seemed a little clunky at time and didn’t flow as well as I might have liked, especially for a picture book. I read this to myself, but if I were reading this aloud to my son, then I think the awkwardness would have been even more apparent.



to sum it up - Copy


The bright, colorful pictures are a pleasing accompaniment to the story of Bilal, his father, and the neighborhood children who are his friends. While I found the writing slightly off, I still thought the story overall was really interesting and I definitely want to make my own chana daal now. 😊😋






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