Friday, August 10, 2012

Happiness is...a good book (Summer Reading edition #35)

Minette’s Feast
Author: Susanna Reich
Illustrator: Amy Bates
Published: 2012
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6-12
Genre: Biography
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G
First Sentence:Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was a very lucky cat, perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris.

In the opening pages we are introduced to Minette and her life before meeting Paul and Julia Child. She watched them wander the streets of Paris together arm in arm stopping to enjoy fine meals in cafes and restaurants. Their apartment was not perfect; it was dark and cold and populated with mice but they filled it with family and friends. Yet still it was missing something. Thus Minette was adopted and grew to enjoy leisurely naps and welcoming laps interspersed with delicious meals. While Julia spent days at the various markets and in cooking class improving her skills and exploring her passion Minette basked in the tastes of the leftovers though she always (as any cat would) preferred mice!

The text is rich with French phrases, actual quotes from Paul and Julia and lovely touches of alliteration and poetic phrases. For example; Julia and Paul spent much of their time nibbling ‘croissants in cafes where cats curled on chairs’, and munching on ‘baguettes in bistros where birds warbled in cages’ and so on. It gives the simple story an added bit of depth and texture.

The illustrations are sketched in pencil and tinted with watercolors in muted tones and have a decidedly French flare, my favorite being the tribute to the Chat Noir on the title page. (And I loved the red and white checked picnic blanket end pages...end pages, people, pay attention!!) :)

There’s an afterword with additional information on Child’s life including dates, mentions of her spy activities, her cookbook publication and television appearances and her death. A French pronunciation guide and glossary helps out with the phrases found throughout the story. There’s also an author’s note describing her interest in Julia’s life and her inspiration in using a cat to make the story accessible to children as well as a notes section detailing the references for all of the quotes used.

This is another fine example of a picture book biography containing enough of a story or focus to keep the interest of young readers while still providing factual information (and the plethora of resources in the back make me even happier; the more back matter the better!)  Kids probably won't care much about Julia Child but Minette's story will keep them entertained while moms indulge their own fan fantasies.

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