Written by Lois Brandt
Illustrated by Vin Vogel
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 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?
- International Literary Association (ILA) Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Award Winner, Primary Fiction
- Christopher Award Winner, Books for Young People, 2015
- 10 Best Indie Picture Books of 2014, Foreword Reviews
- Michigan Mitten Honor Book, 2015
- Nevada Young Reader Award list, 2016
- WA Children’s Choice Award list, 2015-16
- Selected as one of 30 books that embody the six core tenets of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (food, health, safety, education, shelter, and participation) and included in the Human Rights in Children’s Literature exhibition at the University of Connecticut in 2016
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 childhood hunger.
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.
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!
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 30 children’s and YA books that embody the six core tenets of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child
Maddi’s Fridge was selected as one of 30 children’s and YA books that embody the six core tenets of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (food, health, safety, education, shelter, and participation) and was included in a special exhibition entitled Human Rights in Children’s Literature at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center of the University of Connecticut in 2016. This exhibition will soon tour elementary schools, universities, and organizations in the US, and the Neag School of Education will create supplementary curricular materials to help children understand these important issues.
Recommended by Québec Reading Connection
Text addresses the serious issues of poverty and hunger, but with levity and humour in the children’s friendship. The repeated ritual of Sofia smuggling food from home to bring to Maddi, with mostly unsuccessful results, is increasingly ridiculous: “‘Yuck!’ Maddi said the next day. ‘Oh!’ Sofia said. ‘Double Yuck.’ Fish may be good for kids, but fish is not good for backpacks.” A playful tone prevails for the young girls, even as they face their problems.
Colourful illustrations rendered in digital tablet and pen add warmth as well. The girls have large goggle eyes and friendly grins. Cartoon-style drawings show Maddi peering into her bare fridge on one page, with her friend’s full fridge contrasting on the page opposite. The two images are connected by a strip above, showing Sofia walking down a city street pondering how to help her friend. Sofia ultimately breaks her promise and appeals to her mom for help.
Six steps for helping “Friends Who Have Empty Refrigerators” is included at the back, along with links to organizations that deal with hunger.
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.
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. based 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 childhood hunger.
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.
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.
From Jean Little Library
…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 clicking.
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.
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. –review publication of the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California
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 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
…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
…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 Craig Wiesner, owner of Reach and Teach Bookstore in San Mateo, CA
Maddi’s Fridge: A Book that Transforms the World. 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 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. –Kevan Atteberry
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.
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!
Included in Kiss the Book blog Top 50 Elementary Books of 2015
“Essential” –Kiss the Book blog
About the Creators
Lois Brandt is the author of Maddi’s Fridge, illustrated by Vin Vogel. Years ago Lois peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk. Her best friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge is the result of that moment. A teacher by trade, Lois weaves together diverse images and events to create stories for children. She lives near Seattle, WA, with her husband, assorted kids, two dogs, and a fluffy cat who thinks he’s a dog. This is her first picture book. You can read more on her personal website.
Vinicius Vogel is the illustrator of Maddi’s Fridge, written by Lois Brandt. He is an award winning Brazilian author-illustrator, and has illustrated more than fifty books for children and young-adults, including his own The Thing about Yetis and Bedtime for Yeti. He instantly fell in love with the manuscript for Maddi’s Fridge, and is thrilled that this book is making an impact on its readers. After living in NYC, he is back in his always-exciting hometown of Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with his two cats and a mini Malibu surfboard. Read more about Vin on his personal website.
ISBN: HC 9781936261291 / ePDF 9781936261499 / EPUB 9781936261383 / KF8 9781936261390
Print Length: 32 Full Color Pages
Publication Date: Fall 2014
Age Group: 4-8
Lexile Measure: 430L
Word Count: 1091
Foreign Rights: Korean, Portuguese, Turkish
Activity Guides & More
THEMES: childhood hunger, friendship, secrets, empathy, helping
- Free Printable Board Game for Classroom or Home created by the U of Missouri
- Common Core Curriculum Guide
- Cheesy Pizza Bombs Recipe
- Maddis Fridge Coloring Page
- Writing My Helping Story
- Writing About Being Helped
- Maze: Help Ryan and Luis find Pepito
- Elementary English Language Arts Activities from Quebec Reading Connection
- Elementary English as a Second Language Activities from Quebec Reading Connection
- Anti-Defamation League Parent Guide and Educator’s Guide