Off the Shelf: Empty Fridge

Well, jury duty totally threw my blogging intentions out the window last week. If all goes well, we’ll reach a verdict today, and life will go back to normal for me (and for the parties involved in this trial).

Anyhow, happy Cinco de Mayo! I have great memories of May 5ths in the past. Growing up in Southern California, even white girls like me have lots of Mexican friends who know exactly where to go to get great food and watch awesome baile foklorico.

But today’s Off the Shelf post unfortunately has nothing to do with Cinco de Mayo. It does, however, have to do with France. Yay, France! Ole.

It’s called Empty Fridge. (Can you, like me, immediately identify with this title because of your own naked icebox?)


This awesome little find was originally published in France in 2009. The English translation was published in 2012. It’s written and illustrated by Gaetan Doremus.

It starts off with Andrew, a homeless man who lives on the street near an apartment complex.


One of the very interesting things about this book is that it depicts city life, apartment living. So many American kids’ books depict families living in detached two-story homes with garages and big yards. So, it’s refreshing to see a kids’ book that deals with multi-family living spaces. The book itself is tall and narrow, just like the apartment complexes themselves.

At the beginning of the story, we’re told that everyone has had a busy day…



…so busy, in fact, that they’ve all forgotten to buy food. When they get home, their cupboards and pantries and refrigerators are bare. There are a bunch of awesome full-page illustrations of the apartment complex. On the left, you have the exterior. On the right, you can see what’s going on inside.



Andrew knows what it’s like not to have food. He takes a few carrots to the guy who lives on the ground floor. (If the guy has peas, they might be able to combine them to make a meal.)



Don’t you love the use of color?

Anyhow, the guy who lives on the first floor doesn’t have much food, either, but he takes what he has and grabs Andrew and they knock on the second-story door to see if that person has anything they can share.



Every floor they visit, they pick up more folks with empty fridges.


Doremus likes to use bold splashes of color. Throughout the first part of the book, we only get a few colors here and there. See the red apartment below.


Finally, they get to the top floor where a little old lady lives.


They realize they have everything they need to make a delicious quiche. So they all hop into the kitchen and start cooking together. It’s so cute. Like a big party.



Here’s the magnificent French food hot out of the oven.


The moral of the story is that when people come together and help one another, something special happens. It starts with a primal need (food) and they end up fulfilling a social need that’s just as strong (community, friendship). They look out the top story window and see that other people in the neighboring apartments have also gathered together to cook.


Then, the author goes wild and creates a picture of a world in which dinner is an awesome block party, with people socializing and enjoying one another’s company. When you stop and think about the nature of apartment living, this type of idea is so different from the way things really are. In apartments, we live (quite literally) on top of one another, super close, sharing walls and ceilings and floors — and yet we never interact. Here, the author is envisioning a different kind of world.



But, in the end, we learn that the whole thing was a dream of Andrew’s.


Although, we do get a glimmer of hope. As Andrew is rolling up his pallet…


The neighbor asks him what’s for dinner…



The publisher’s website actually has a cute little download sheet for teachers and parents so that kids can learn something while reading.


Do you know your neighbors? Are they acquaintances or do you spend time together?


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