1011 No tea left unstirred
Teatime Around the World
by Denyse Waissbluth, illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne
Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2020
$22.95 / 9781771646017
Reviewed by Caileigh Broatch
Teatime Around the World invites readers to afternoon tea with an English duchess, to drink green mint tea in Morocco, and buy masala chai from chai wallah vendors in India. Within the 28 illustrated pages the book, children will not only learn about a variety of flavoured tea, but encounter methods of brewing all across the globe.
On the first pages, readers start out in kitchen that resembles their own. A green tea pot, a hanging plant, a quaint moment shared between two friends — mothers. “Tea for one. Tea for two.” On the floor just below a young boy is having a tea party of his own, with his dapper teddy and brown-spotted dog. “Tea for me. Tea for two.”
Then we visit Morocco, then India, followed by Tibet and Thailand. The story continues to the mountainous countryside of North America, the hilled plains of West Africa, and to traditional tea customs in Japan, Russia, England, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, China, Taiwan, and South America. No tea is left un-stirred in this extraordinary journey across the globe.
Denyse Waissbluth writes about the magic of enjoying a cup of hot — or cold or iced — tea:
[W]hile the history, evolution, and even the name for tea differs around the world, for me, tea has been a natural way to connect with people and learn about new cultures. My earliest memories of tea stem from my grandparents’ farm in the Canadian Prairies, where a kettle of strong black tea was always on, ready to greet guests. As I started to travel, tea remained a symbol of hospitality…. We drank, ate, and talked for hours, sharing ideas about our respective countries, backgrounds, and cultures.
Teatime Around the World incorporates all of Waissbluth’s intention with warmth and tenderness. Each pages carries a rhyme, and the explanatory text give detail to the gathering and preparing of teas as well as their origins. The page on yak butter details and illustrates the steeping and churning of the tea in Tibet; the tea “poured from the sky” in Malaysia; the tapioca bubble tea from Taiwan.
Chelsea O’Bryne, teacher, artist, and author in Vancouver, contributes the illustrations. Through various mediums — gouache, watercolour, coloured pencils — O’Bryne portrays the various cultures in the book. No detail escapes her talented pen. She pays close attention to the characters, but also to traditional serving vessels and clothing of the various cultures. From the small cakes served with afternoon tea to Russian metal samovars that serve multiple guests, O’Bryne details each scene with precise and playful design.
O’Bryne has lent her talent to create a truly cozy atmosphere in a book perfect for sharing. Waissbluth’s debut children’s book, Teatime Around the World was a natural undertaking for her. Her knowledge of tea — and tea culture — is expansive and her background in journalism lends itself to presenting the vast world of teas.
Aimed at readers aged 4-8, Around the World offers plenty to get the littlest ones involved — grandchildren are the perfect audience — but won’t provide quite enough depth for middle-school aged children. The book offers ingredients but not recipes; and the variety of berries, for example, is not specified or the gathering techniques provided. But these are minor quibbles.
The lyrical rhyme that drives Teatime forward — a journey around the world to discover new drinks and new cultures — will help teach children how language works as it applies to all cultures. The memory of the rhyme, the accompanying text, and the revealing illustrations will help young readers understand and appreciate the many ways to prepare tea globally — and the universality of this most welcome drink.
Caileigh Broatch is a writer from Vancouver Island, with a BA in creative writing and journalism from Vancouver Island University. Her work has been published in Portal Magazine and The Nav (VIU’s student magazine, where she was the features editor from 2018-2020). Her studies have taken her to investigate Canadian literature, gold panning, ghosts, and killer whales, among more academic topics. Editor’s note: for The Ormsby Review Caileigh has reviewed books by Barbara Smith, AJ Devlin, PJ Reece, and Susan Scott.
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