The Empty Fridge

Gaetan Doremus
Wilkins Farago, 2013

It seems everyone in Andrew’s block has been so busy during the day, they’ve forgotten to buy anything for dinner. Their fridges are empty…but not quite. With only three carrots to eat, Andrew decides to go upstairs to ask his neighbours if they have anything.  As the growing group of neighbours ascend each floor of their apartment, they gather more ingredients from more neighbours until they reach the top floor and everyone finally has enough for a meal. But what to cook? The Empty Fridge tells us what they decide and then ends with a fun twist. It’s also really fun because the book, itself is oddly well-shaped like a refrigerator!

This story is a very well-told, fun to read aloud story that is a welcomed update to Stone Soup. As with all good stories, there are so many different directions one can go and meanings one can take from this story. After reading aloud, I’ve had delightful conversation with children about what it means to be community. The fact that no food in the fridge doesn’t have to spell disaster for one person, or for that matter, for any of the apartment dwellers to have to suffer their empty fridges alone. They can come together to contribute what they have in order to be healthy together (physically and socially). And in fact, the whole apartment block participated in the cooking making time and opportunity for real friendship. Communities should be able to do this for us: to decrease our isolation and to make it more possible for more people to thrive.

The willingness and ability to share is another easy theme to explore within the book. There’s the opportunity to learn the wisdom that holding one’s possessions (even their groceries) too tightly can lead to a loneliness that openness and sharing can remedy. None of the neighbours thought that their little ingredient should be kept to themselves. In sharing, they all ended up with something better.

A word about the twist at the end (spoiler alert): Once the meal is cooked and all are enjoying it on the rooftop, we look out to see that all the other apartments in the city are doing the same thing and eating with one another. Soon after, we learn that this was all a dream. Andrew wakes up, but rather than it being the end of the story, he decides to act out the vision he had in his dream, taking his three carrots to the neighbours. Rather than inciting a groan to this well-worn story-telling technique, I find it actually brings a sense of reality and authenticity to the fancifulness of the neighbourhood scene. It hasn’t happened in this idyllic way…yet. But it could if Andrew (and us readers) follow through on such a beautiful vision of community.

I love this book and hope you will too.