Julia, Child (Kyo Maclear)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Julia, Child, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad, an ode to cooking and childhood.

From the first time young Julia tastes sole meunière, she is enchanted by cooking and cuisine. She and her friend Simca spend days together, at the market shopping for ingredients, learning the craft of creating fine food, testing new recipes together in the kitchen. Their pursuits bring them such joy that when they notice the dreary and uninspired adults around them, they wonder if their culinary creations can help. Gathering a diverse group of busy, serious people for a meal, Julia and Simca serve them a plentiful gourmet table that contains all the delights and joys of childhood. Their guests are exuberant at first, yet quickly turn selfish, hoarding the food from the others when they fear it will run out. Frustrated and disappointed, Julia and Simca return to their comfort zone, the kitchen, to figure out how to tweak their recipe and achieve just the right flavor of happiness.

Deliciously inventive. Obviously, this reimagining of the friendship between Julia Child and Simone Beck isn’t historical; the women met and discovered a shared love of French cuisine in adulthood. But this is no matter: Julia and Simca are sweet nods to their real-life adult counterparts in a story that is not about them, but about finding a passion and using it to create, and to inspire others. And while it felt like parts of the metaphor flew over my head – particularly the sequence in which the adults aggressively reserve the food – the overarching message is one of appreciating the little things, especially things like a meal made with love, or the bond between two best friends. Morstad’s illustrations are as lovely as ever, using soft colors and fine details to create unique, engaging characters and food that looks good enough to eat. The length is perfect, and JJ enjoyed this one a lot. A scrumptious read, especially for fans of the real life chef, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Bloom: A Story Of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli (Kyo Maclear)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bloom: A Story Of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a moving story of the fashion innovator and her passion for color and redefining beauty.

When Elsa was born in 1890 in Rome, her parents were disappointed – they had wanted a boy. Her mother heavily favored her older sister, giving her the nickname “Bella”. She gave a nickname to Elsa as well: “Brutta”, Italian for “Ugly.” Elsa so wished to be beautiful that she tried to plant flower seeds in her ears and mouth so she could grow a face full of the beautiful flowers of Rome, but she only made herself sick. But from these heartbreaking beginnings, an artist grew; Elsa went on to travel the world, to learn how to design and construct clothes, to become friends with prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. She became a massive success – people adored her colorful, playful fashions that let women express themselves. She even invented her own color with Jean Clemént: “Shocking Pink”! All because Elsa decided that she would let no one else define her beauty – she was beautiful just the way she was.

Wow! I was not expecting this at all. I confess to having never heard of Elsa before reading the book, and the experience of learning her story was a moving one. I adored that the story was told from the first person – it allowed a real connection with Elsa, and insight into her feelings and motivations. Morstad’s illustrations are as stunning and energetic as always, and she uses color and detail to make each illustration not only tell a story, but be an emotional experience. The length isn’t bad, perhaps a bit long for very young bookworms, but JJ loved the vibrant colors. An inspiring story of a great artist, and the empowering lesson against letting others define your beauty or worth. Baby Bookworm approved!