At a time when smiles seem in short supply, this guest post by an award-winning children's book author offers the pleasure of "spaghetti smiles."

Spaghetti Smiles Cover - Copy

The Adventures of an Italian Restaurant 

by Margo Sorenson

Ah, Italian food – who can resist the perfect spaghetti carbonara, vitello Milanese or pollo alla Fiorentina? Probably no one who is reading this post!  I spent my early childhood in southern Italy, and that life-changing experience prompted me to write my most recent children’s picture book, SPAGHETTI SMILES.  

Who among us can't remember a favorite dish or meal prepared and savored back in our pasts? All it takes to call up that memory is the same mouth-watering scent, and, instantly, we are transported back in time, to another place, engaged again by a rush of nostalgia and yearning. I recall with clarity the images stirred up of my childhood in Italy by the scent of fresh tomatoes on the vine and olive oil sizzling in the pan.

Many of you can conjure up your own heartwarming memories intertwined with food, and if you love Italian cuisine, you will remember the special occasions you shared those meals with others. I wanted to recreate that delight in Italian cooking with a picture book for children, one that would prompt them to thoroughly enjoy Italian food.

The main idea for SPAGHETTI SMILES was generated by the fact that our young daughters used to have sleepover birthday parties, and what they loved to do was to have "make-your-own-pizza" parties. The girls would line up in front of all the ingredients and create their own pizzas, some making faces and some making designs.

I always wondered, "What if the pizzas could rearrange their own faces?" Another "what if?" question popped into my head when our favorite Italian restaurant lost its neighbor, a toy store. The store remained vacant for some time, and I wondered: What if a bank moved in next door? Or a post office? Or a gas station? What if things got mixed up between the restaurant and its new neighbor? What would be some of the wacky things that might happen?

With my love for all things Italian, the story took shape. SPAGHETTI SMILES was lots of fun to write, most of all because I could write about an Italian restaurant and Italian food and how  the restaurant and Uncle Rocco bring the community together. The story stars the young hero, Jake, who must find a new neighbor for his Uncle Rocco's crazy, mixed-up Italian restaurant, but it won't be easy!

Spaghetti illustration 10-11

Everyone loves to eat there, but no one wants to move next door to such a wacky restaurant, where, for example, Uncle Rocco bowls with mozzarella balls, knocking over olive oil bottles. When Jake discovers a new bookstore in town, he decides he must find a way to convince its owner to be Uncle Rocco's new neighbor. It also was fun to write all the "what if's" for each different business, such as pizzas baking in a bank vault, gas pumps pumping tomato sauce and lasagna being airmailed all over the world.

Spaghetti illustration 18-19

I hope that readers, as they finish the book, are smiling along with Jake and Uncle Rocco and all the customers and either wanting to visit an Italian restaurant or to make a wonderful Italian meal and create more memories!

Margo Sorenson is the award-winning author of twenty-seven traditionally-published books. You can follow her on Twitter as @ipapaverison.