Book Review: City of Hamburgers

Lillie Forteau's picture

I have a new book that I love and want to share with you.  It is called City of Hamburgers, written by Mike Reiss and illustrated by Xeth Feinberg.

It makes me laugh because there are funny jokes and funny pictures! There are hot dogs, hamburgers, relish, tomatoes, and even a weiner dog!  The story starts out with a boy and his grandma, and she is telling him a bedtime story. Her German accent leads him to ask about language and differences. The drawings make you laugh because of the wordplay all through the book, where Jeffrey and his grandma say and mean different things with the same words. The illustrations are so funny - for instance, there was a teacher who was always crabby because one guy took a bite out of him - and his nametag was so long that it went off the desk. I share this book with all of my friends, and we sit and laugh. It also makes me want to travel more, and explore Germany and their food.

WE note: This creative and funny book was authored by Mike Reiss, writer and producer for The Simpsons, and illustrated by Xeth Feinberg , an independent animator and cartoonist who has worked with Reiss on a number of projects.  Published by our friends at Inkwater Press, City of Hamburgers "humorously contrasts today's fast food culture with the words and accents of old world Germany. In the process, Reiss reminds us that our differences are minor and that they can be understood and bridged no matter our age or background...The underlying message is one of inclusion and acceptance between country and country, between grandmother and child, all told with a giggle that will delight any child or adult reading the story."

Lillie (6) was lucky enough to talk with the author, Mike Reiss, and illustrator, Xeth Feinberg. Here's what they had to say...

From Mike Reiss:

LF: How did you think of this story?

MR: My wife and I were riding through Hamburg, Germany, when the tour guide said, "The local people are called Hamburgers."  We started giggling like naughty kids in school.  Sometimes it only takes a silly little idea like this to spark a whole children' book!

LF: Why was the Gramma telling the story?

MR: The grandmother in this book is based on my grandmother from Eastern Europe. She called witches 'vitches', just like the grandma in the story.  I liked the idea of a grandmother telling a very simple story, but it sounds very mysterious and fantastic to the little boy. My only regret is that I called the grandma Greta (a German name) -- I wish I'd named her Rose, after my grandmother.

LF: Why did you write this story?

MR: When I get an idea in my head, I just want to get it out.  It's like when
you almost have to sneeze, but then can't.  When you finally do sneeze, it
feels so good.  That's how I feel writing a children's book, and it's lots of fun -- you get a silly idea and then see how far you can go with it.  In grade school, your teachers are always asking you to write stories, but when you get older, they stop asking.  I liked writing stories when I was nine years old, and I like it now when I'm forty-nine.

And, with Xeth Feinberg:

LF:  What gave you the idea to draw the hamburgers so we laugh? and the hot dogs?

XF: Actually, the idea was by the book's writer, Mike. He wrote the words and then I read them and made pictures to go along with the story. So the idea of the hamburger people and the hot dog people was already there when I started. But the way the burger people actually look... well, I just tried to make them funny and look the part.

LF:  Did you plan to put something funny on every page?

XF: Yes we did. Otherwise maybe people would stop turning the pages!

LF:  How did you get interested in art?

XF: I always like to draw. I was a kid who was always doodling and sketching
in school. Even during math class, which probably wasn't such a good idea.

LF:  Is it fun to illustrate books?

XF: Yes. It's like being given a bit of a puzzle to figure out. How do you put words into pictures? Everybody imagines how things look their own way. It's fun to get it down on paper.

LF: How did you get into art?

XF: I've spent most of the last decade working in animation. Before that I loved drawing comics. I always wanted to get around to illustrating books, so this was a fun start.

In the old days I worked with pen and ink, or paints, but now I pretty much draw directly into various computer programs. CITY OF HAMBURGERS was done that way.

LF: Anything else?

XF: I currently live in a little house in the country with my wife Rose and a terrier named Monty and enjoy feeding the wild turkeys.

WE: Thanks so much, Mike and Xeth. This book is a big hit in our home, and has been the impetus of many different cultural discussions - places, names, travel, the importance of family, and how we're all human.  We can't recommend this book enough to everyone!



Comments (3)

  • Sam Pounder

    13 years 8 months ago

    This sound like a very fun book for kids and adults.  I would enjoy reading it to my grandchildren.

  • Glinda

    13 years 8 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading about this book, and Lillie's interview, too.  It sounds so fun, I plan to look it up next time I'm at the bookstore. Thanks for bringing it to my attention-I'd like to read it to my grandchildren too!

  • claresparkle

    13 years 7 months ago

    It is so nice to read a book review by someone who is young. Thank you, Lillie. I have a granddaughter and would love to have a copy of this book to read to her.

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