|Picture Books That Explore and Illuminate
Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, play in the same park, and both have
pesky little brothers. But while Sofia's fridge at home is full of milk and eggs and tortillas and cheese
and lettuce and jam and even half a can of dog food, Maddi's fridge is empty -- white empty --
with just a small container of milk for her brother, Ryan.
“Why doesn’t your mom go the grocery store?” Sofia asked.
“We don’t have any money.”
“What if you get hungry?”
“We have some bread.” Maddi said.
“I guess I’d better go home,” Sofia said.
Sofia promises Maddi she won't tell, but is still determined to help. She sneaks food for Maddi in
her bag and discovers that while fish and eggs are good for people, they aren't very good for
backpacks. Despite Sofia's very best efforts, Maddi's fridge is still empty. Sofia promised not to
tell. Now what can she do?
Hardcover, 32 full color pages, ages 4-8
Praise for Maddi's Fridge
Included in the Top 50 Elementary Books of 2015 on Kiss the Book blog, presented at the Utah Educational Library Media
Association (UELMA) annual conference
"Essential" --Kiss the Book blog
From The Christopher Award Ceremony
Sofia’s refrigerator at home is always filled with plenty of food. That’s why she’s surprised when she reaches into her friend Maddi’
s fridge for a snack – and finds it virtually empty. Embarrassed by her family’s poverty, Maddi asks Sofia to keep it a secret. But
Sofia knows she needs to do something – and her comical attempts finally lead to a helpful solution. ased on an experience author
Lois Brandt had as a child, “Maddi’s Fridge” teaches kids to take a proactive approach when it comes to generosity and fighting
Best friends share secrets, but they’re also supposed to help each other. While Sofia is the faster runner, Maddi can scale the rock
wall, no problem. What is a problem is when the girls go to Maddi’s house for a snack and find only milk in the fridge. Maddi,
embarrassed, explains that her mom can’t afford to buy food and asks Sofia to promise not to tell anyone. Sofia tries to keep her
promise, and each night after dinner, she puts leftovers in her backpack for Maddi. Both girls learn that some foods, like fish and
eggs, don’t travel well. Eventually, Sofia realizes that to be a good friend, she must tell a grown-up to help Maddi and her family.
Cartoon-style illustrations, depicting a vibrant and diverse city neighborhood, help soften the difficult issues raised. The final page
includes suggestions on how to help others in need and a link to a site for more information on fighting hunger. Food insecurity,
childhood hunger, and poverty are treated with tenderness and humor.
From School Library Journal
In her debut picture book, Brandt addresses an important issue: childhood hunger. Sofia's best friend does not have food at
home. After taking on the climbing wall at the park, the girls go to Maddi's apartment. A hungry Sofia looks for a snack and is
surprised to find a lone carton of milk in the refrigerator. Maddi admits that her mom does not have enough money to go to the
grocery store and makes Sofia promise to keep it secret. At home, Sofia's mother serves a delicious supper of fish and rice. The
refrigerator is filled with good things to eat, including her brother's favorite treat, Cheesy Pizza Bombs. Worried about her friend,
Sofia smuggles food to school, but fish and eggs are "not good for backpacks." Each afternoon, Sofia tries to follow the nimble
Maddi to the top of the climbing wall, but it's too high for her. Maddi encourages her, lending her a hand, and Sofia finally climbs
the wall. Wanting to do something for Maddi, Sofia tells her mother about the empty fridge. Together, they go to the store to buy
groceries. To Sofia's relief, Maddi is not angry about the broken promise, and the two families share a supper of Cheesy Pizza
Bombs. Vogel's digital illustrations portraying the smiling, wide-eyed girls in their city neighborhood are filled with
warmth and a sense of community. An endnote provides suggestions for helping friends who have empty refrigerators and
directs young readers to a companion website, MaddisFridge.com
Included in Iowa Public Radio's 2014 Children's Holiday Book Guide
“I can’t stop selling this book. It came out in September and has a very important message about children’s hunger
without being preachy. It follows two friends, and when one is at the other’s house, they look in the fridge and it’s practically
empty. My favorite moment is at the end of the book when the girl who was visiting brings food to the other’s family.” Sue
Davis of River Lights Books in Dubuque, Iowa. Read the transcript of Sue's full review here.
From The Children's Book Review
"This is a big-issue book, handled delicately. It’s not preachy or judgmental, and has a sweet story about friendship first and
foremost. The funny parts with yucky food hidden in a backpack provide some levity in what could be a very serious book. It
provides a great starting point for discussions about hunger, charity, and talking to an adult when something seems wrong with a
little friend. The illustrations are fun and the language is accessible. A perfectly sweet book about a serious topic. Very well done!"
From Horn Book Guide Reviews 2015 Spring
When Sofia finds Maddi's refrigerator nearly empty because Maddi's mother doesn't have enough money to buy food, Sofia
promises to keep it a secret. But eventually Sofia tells her own mother, and together they gather some groceries for Maddi's family.
Humorous art and a story line focusing on the girls' friendship keep the tone light. Notes on combating hunger are included.
Endorsement from Kirby Larson, Newbery Honor-winning author of Hattie Big Sky
"I really admire Lois Brandt for writing about those in need without making this an "issue" book. It's first and foremost a story --
and a good one!"
From Kirkus Reviews
"...Though undeniably purposive, this title is notable. The bright, friendly illustrations soften the topic while still conveying the
characters’ difficult feelings, such as worry and embarrassment. Gentle, age-appropriate humor releases the tension, keeping
readers engaged as Sofia discovers how to best help her friend....A thoughtful and well-executed look at the challenge of
From Jean Little Library
Rating: Recommended for Purchase
...Hunger and poverty is rarely, if ever, addressed in children's books. This book has a nice storyline, paralleling Maddi
helping Sofia to climb the wall with Sofia bringing Maddi food. It was nice to see that Sofia, whose family appears to be Hispanic,
wasn't automatically made the ones in poverty. Both families appear to be parented by single moms, another thing you don't see
often in children's books (at least not explicitly) but the similarities, rather than the differences, between the two girls are what is
emphasized; they both have little brothers, they both like playing in the park, they both like treats. Part of the story includes
discussion of healthy food as well as the issues of poverty (Sofia asks at dinner each night if the food they're eating is healthy before
trying to take it to Maddi and there are several discussions of which food is healthy and which is a sometimes treat). It is a little
more text-heavy than the typical picture book, but the illustrations are attractive enough that most older children will enjoy
listening to it.... Verdict: This has a decent plot aside from the lesson and the illustrations are fun. Recommended for purchase
if you need more titles on this topic (and I'm betting you don't have any)....
From School Library Journal
"In her debut picture book, Brandt addresses an important issue: childhood hunger.... Vogel's digital illustrations portraying the
smiling, wide-eyed girls in their city neighborhood are filled with warmth and a sense of community."
From Kidpeople Classroom
Flashlight Press has a wonderful collection of children's picture books. You know how you just sort of resonate with some
publisher's choices? Well, it's like that for me with Flashlight Press. I have purchased several of their books, and reviewed Maddi's
Fridge, in addition to I Need My Monster. Not only are the books wonderful to look at, but their stories catch your attention and
bring you in, and the content is also very in-line with what primary grade teachers want to teach and discuss with kids. Maddi's
Fridge is one of those special kind of books that deals with real life problems in non-preachy ways. You can read my review by
From Nerdy Book Club
Maddi’s Fridge (Flashlight Press, 2014) is a fine, recent example of a picture book that can expose children like mine to
circumstances that are hopefully foreign to them: child hunger. This very believable story is inspired by author Lois Brandt’s own
experience looking into the refrigerator of her friend and finding one single, small carton of milk. The story: Friends Sofia and
Maddi race to the playground; it’s Sofia who beats Maddi to the climbing wall. But it’s Maddi who scrambles up to the top of the
wall first. This isn’t the first time that Sofia is left, frustrated, at the bottom. Maddi encourages her, but Sofia’s annoyed and in need
of a break. A snack is what she needs to recover. She and Maddi race to Maddi’s house for a snack. Once again, Sofia wins and
gets there first. When Sofia opens her friend’s refrigerator, she stops in her tracks. It’s almost completely empty. Just one single,
small carton of milk.
In appropriate, honest language, Maddi explains to Sofia that her family doesn’t have enough money for food, and the milk is for
her little brother, because “he’s still growing.” Maddi makes Sofia promise not to tell anyone. Sofia runs home, but her mind
remains in front of Maddi’s refrigerator. As she enters her own well-stocked kitchen and eats a nutritious dinner, all she can think
about is her friend’s empty cupboards and stomach. For a few days, thoughtful Sofia attempts to bring food to Maddi. But she
chooses all the wrong things: fish (too stinky!), eggs (too cracky!), and finally burritos (yes! something good for backpacks and
kids!). Finally, she admits to her mother—and breaks her promise to Maddi—about why she’s pilfering food from her family’s
kitchen. Sofia and her mother buy groceries and take them to Maddi’s house. Maddi’s mother accepts the groceries and shares a
cup of coffee while the kids play together.
There is a definite relief when, at the end of the book, illustrator Vin Vogel draws a full refrigerator in Maddi’s house. For young
readers, this sort of resolution is necessary. We older readers understand that the groceries Sofia’s family takes to Maddi’s family
are just a quick, band-aid type of fix on a larger problem. But books such as Maddi’s Fridge help young and old readers feel
something for the characters. They inspire and encourage empathic responses to serious problems. We old readers can guide those
young readers through the Author’s Note at the end of the book where Brandt points us to ways we can help, too.
Our refrigerator and those in my kids’ friends’ kitchens are chock full of organic, lush produce, dairy, and meat. How else but
through fiction can I transport my kids to a house where kids aren’t so fortunate? Where a child’s stomach may rumble for a snack
but there’s nothing for them to eat? I’m grateful to fiction and Maddi’s Fridge for giving me a way.
From Bayviews, the review publication of the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California
"Brandt’s story of friendship, the importance of keeping secrets, and the prevalence of food insecurity is engaging, if a bit didactic.
Vogel’s bright, crisp digital illustrations bring to life the high-energy friends, their families, and their hometown of New York City.
This book introduces a topic that is rarely explored in picture books, and it would be a welcome addition to larger
picture book collections. A back page offers suggestions for how kids can help those in need."
From Joy Makin' Mamas
"...Lois Brandt has done an excellent job of making that message relatable for even very small children…. Vin Vogel‘s illustrations
are enticing, detailed, and colorful. They give a sense of emotion and of movement that create a feeling of connection to
the characters for readers and pre-readers alike, and the cityscape that forms the backdrop for the story is architecturally
interesting, while also depicting a vibrant, walkable community…the words are well chosen and well composed- the story shows
us the bond between the people in the book, without distracting us by pointing it out. The narrative injects humor and carries
the theme of community and overcoming obstacles throughout the story in a way that is both elegant and
subtle…pretty masterful for a 32 page picture book."
From Betsy Devany's Blog
"...exactly the kind of story I wanted to share with elementary kids, with my grandchildren, and also with our local libraries. As a
weekly volunteer in a second-grade classroom, I read a picture book of my choice following snack time. I see firsthand how
picture books are effectively used with second graders. The kids study characterization, plot, motive, and then compare their own
feelings and experiences to a story. Yes, seven- and eight-year-olds need picture books, longer picture books, even though they
read independently by this age.... While this is an issue book, Lois weaves a non-didactic story, with emphasis on story. She
cleverly introduces Maddi and Sofia as two close friends before leading us to what drives the plot: Maddi’s home situation. Maddi
is a confident and exuberant child, skilled at climbing walls, while the empathic Sofia struggles with climbing, with Maddi always
encouraging Sofia to try harder. The status of Maddi’s refrigerator—it’s empty except for milk she is saving for her brother—is
introduced in an organic way. Not only does this story effectively address childhood hunger, it touches on friendship,
secrets, and how a child struggles with choosing which secrets need to be shared with an adult, Sofia’s mother in this
case. Though at first, Sofia attempts to help (feed) Maddi without revealing her secret in ways that are both touching and funny.
The humor element is this kind of story is vital, and Lois is adept at understanding how serious subjects must be
infused with sprinkles of humor. Vin Vogel’s illustrations support this to a fully satisfying end. At the story’s close, there are
suggestions for kids to “ . . . help friends who have empty refrigerators.” Vin Vogel’s illustrations are charming. I especially
love the background neighborhood, depicted at different times during the day. Overall, the reader feels a sense of family
nestled within a cultural community that supports an indie bookstore, a yoga studio, and a small-town grocery store, all
set against the backdrop of the city. Vin’s own neighborhood, shown in the photograph, inspired Maddi and Sofia’s world.
Published by Flashlight Press, Maddi’s Fridge is an important and memorable picture book. The more children exposed to
this story, the better off our world could be. With the back-of-the-book suggestions on how to make a difference, my hope is
that Maddi’s Fridge will empower children (and adults) to actively aid in the fight against childhood hunger. 10% of the profits are
being donated to help fight the cause.
From Two Classy Chics
I love that this children’s book is bringing attention to [childhood hunger in the U.S.] and teaching other children about child hunger
in a way that they can understand. The illustrations in this book are by Vin Vogel, and I just love them! They are cute and really
add pizzazz to the story. I love that this is a hardcover book that is a nice size. At the back of the book on the last page it tells you
and kids how you can help friends who have empty refrigerators. I love that it teaches kids to be observant and when they spot
another child who may be hungry how they can help (gives you options)....I love that this book talks to kids (and adults) too about
a very important issue and they do it in a fun & entertaining way. I give it a big 2 thumbs up....
From Mackin Books in Bloom: Mackin's Best Books for Teachers and Librarians
In addition to addressing the topic of hunger, this is a story of friendship, a lesson in understanding when it is important to turn to
adults for help, as well as a little cautionary tale on proper food storage! The story is written in a thoughtful, nonjudgmental tone
and the illustrations are fun and appealing. I can see students selecting this book for themselves as well as educators using it to
introduce the various themes.... Not only does this book raise awareness, a portion of the profits are being donated to fight
childhood hunger. This is a sad reality of which we all need to be more aware.
From A Mighty Girl: the world's largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls
Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons
in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others.
From Library Lady of Maple Valley, WA
Local (Washington State) author Lois Brandt has created an accessible and gentle story about friendship and the reality of
children in need. This book will introduce young children to the idea of hunger in our society while at the same time offering them a
practical, kid level way to deal with it. In the end this book is about the power of friendship. The cartoon pictures add to the story
and its accessibility. Sounds like a scary topic but the author handles it beautifully. An excellent early introduction to
hunger in our country.
From Imagination Soup
I’ve just discovered a fantastic book called Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt. It tells the true story about two friends, one who
doesn’t have much food in her fridge and is embarrassed about it. It’s a relatable story about a realistic situation. I think reading it
with your own kids will help them empathize with teachers wanting to make sure their students have enough food to eat.
From Forward Reviews
This is more than a book about child hunger in America—this is a story of friendship. Maddi’s empty fridge and Sofia’s full one are
juxtaposed in a subtle way, while scenes of modern New York elapse across the background: taxis and tofu, hipster cyclists and
yoga studios. Maddi and Sofia take center stage in this adorably rendered tale, and that they are put so expertly in a social
context with a definitive sense of time and place confirms that Brandt and Vogel are masters of their medium.
Maddi's Fridge: A Book that Transforms the World
Review by Craig Wiesner, owner of Reach and Teach Bookstore in San Mateo, CA
Sofia and Maddi are mini-BFFs, playing together in the park and working up an appetite. Sofia and Maddi race to Maddi's home
and Sofia throws open Maddi's fridge to get a snack but... the fridge is bare. In tens of thousands of homes across America, the
same would be true. Ashamed, Maddi begs Sofia not to tell anyone. What's Sofia to do when confronted by her best friend being
hungry with no food to eat?
This is a lovely, engaging, and important book! I love the joyous way the girls play together in the park and the situation of
going home for a snack after playtime is so universal that all children will see themselves in the story. Sadly, the chances that some
children's homes will have little to snack on are pretty high as are the chances that the hungry child will do anything he or she can to
avoid the shame of having a friend discover that secret. Sofia's attempt to solve the hunger problem without alerting her own family
is hilarious. I love the way Sofia keeps that secret until she realizes that there are some secrets you have to share with a trusted
adult, when you know that keeping that secret is doing more harm than good.
This book offers a great opportunity for parents, teachers and others who work with children to read the story out loud, discuss it
with the children, and empower them to make a difference in each other's lives. It can also be a way to get those children who are
hungry to identify themselves to someone who can help them and their family access food. There are so many programs out there
but when hunger is kept secret the hungry continue to suffer, in many cases, needlessly. Unlike many "issue" books, the storyline
is very realistic, with characters you fall in love with instantly, with illustrations that draw you into the children's lives,
their neighborhood, their homes, and most importantly, their story.
Maddi's Fridge, due for release in September 2014, is a book that will transform the world through teachable moments and
we look forward to making it available through Reach And Teach.
From 2nd Grade Reading
Kudos to Brandt for turning a serious social issue into a warm tale infused with humor and loads of heart. Second grade readers
will love Vogel’s cheery illustrations, created with digital pen and ink and rich with detail. This book would be a wonderful addition
to any classroom library – a perfect read aloud opportunity to discuss what it means to be a friend, how to help someone in need,
and how some secrets should be shared with a trusted adult.
From Kevan Atteberry on Picture Book Builders
Every now and then a picture book comes along that is important. [Lois Brandt] took an issue important to her and wrote a
beautiful, engaging story that dealt with it. I’m going to gift this book a lot in the coming year.
From Midwest Book Review
The single greatest achievement of "Maddi's Fridge" is [that it] delivers its message directly, through the intriguing story embellished
with artful illustrations, without preaching or political commentary. "Maddi's Fridge" is a book that works on a child's awareness
level, with no intervening adult judgements to cloud the basic reaction of human compassion. It also tells children exactly what they
can do to help. "Maddi's Fridge" is a wonderful book for all kinds of children, whether they are hungry or not.
From Kid Lit Reviews
Maddi’s Fridge could easily have been a message story or had the lack of food a constant talking point. Instead, Maddi’s Fridge is
a sweet story about two best friends taking care of each other.... The story is perfect for story time, teachers of grades K to 2, and
home-schoolers. Maddi’s Fridge is a sweet story that remains positive, refusing to become sad or gloomy, though the subject of
hunger can certainly be both.
From Toronto 4 Kids
Filled with colourful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important
lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others.
From PW Children's Fall 2014 Sneak Preview
"Flashlight Press opens the door with Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt, illus. by Vin Vogel, in which Cecelia tries to help her friend
Maddi, whose family’s refrigerator is empty."
Peek inside by clicking the cover