Review: Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas


Shanté Keys visits her grandmother to celebrate the New Year. Her grandmother has prepared lots of food but forgot the black-eyed peas. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s is a tradition to bring good luck for the year for many Black American families, so Shanté visits her neighbours to try to borrow some black-eyed peas to ensure her family can participate in the tradition this year too. Each neighbour introduces Shanté to their own culture’s lucky New Year’s foods, covering traditions from China, Scotland, Latin America, and India. Shanté finally finds some black-eyed peas and returns to her grandmother’s to cook them, only to find her neighbours have joined in for dinner too!


I have sought long and hard for a quality New Year’s book for storytime, and this is by far and away the best one I have found. It has all of the hallmarks of a great storytime book: the story is told in rhyme and has a lovely rhythm to it, the repetition of Shanté visiting each neighbour’s house helps children catch on to the narrative and make predictions, the illustrations are clear and expressive even from a distance, and the story is just the right length for squirmy little ones. 

On top of being an excellent storytime pick, I found the book to be a really joyful celebration of diversity and a thoughtful demonstration of the common celebration of good luck for the New Year across the globe. It is a great invitation for children to consider and share their own New Year’s traditions while learning about those from other families and cultures too. The author’s note in the back of the book goes into deeper detail about the traditions mentioned in the book and provides additional examples of lucky food traditions for New Year’s around the world. 

There are plenty of educational tie-ins for this book, but one that I always love is the STEM connections with cooking. You can refer to the recipe for “Grandma Louise’s Hoppin’ John” in the back to kickstart some math activities. 

About the Author

Gail Piernas-Davenport is a creator and “Chicago girl” who always makes sure to have black-eyed peas for New Year’s.

About the Illustrator

Marion Eldridge is an artist and illustrator living in Massachusetts. 

Helpful Links

K-4 Activity Guide for Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas – compiled by Gail Piernas-Davenport

New Year’s Dates – compiled by Gail Piernas-Davenport

Book Details

Title: Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas

Author: Gail Piernas-Davenport

Illustrator: Marion Eldridge

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Year Published: 2007

ISBN: 9780807573310


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