Tomatoes in My Lunchbox by Costantia Manoli is a book about growing up and being different from the Emma’s and Jessica’s of her classroom. Her name is hard to pronounce (it does not sound as you think it would), people wonder why she has a funny sounding name, and why she does not have a sandwich but a whole tomato in her lunchbox, a tomato that squirts the seeds out onto her school clothes.
Manoli takes us through being not only being out of place as it is your first day of school, but because it is a new country as well. It is not until one child and Costantia smile at each other, do things start to work out. And here blossoms friendships with others as well.
It is a simple concept: being different, but really fitting in because of those differences, not despite them. And of course, all it takes is sometimes to make the first step and the rest follows. Magadelena Mora adds to the story with rich, detailed, and colorful illustrations. Everything comes together in a cozy package. You know there will be the tension, but there also will be a happy ending.
The afterwards brings in Manoli’s own story (I am assuming Tomatoes is a “based on” not an exact memoir). We learn how to pronounce her name, we learn about the culture she comes from and because of this, we are introduced to the author and their reasons behind the book.
Not a lot of traditional action takes place, but it can be for almost anyone and really all ages, as the illustrations tell a story for the younger crowd just as easily as the text will.