Review: Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear

“Child’s Play” is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I review children’s stories and picture books for the young and the young at heart.

Title Julia, Child
Author Kyo Maclear
Published July 8th, 2014 by Tundra Books
Pages 32 Pages
Intended Target Audience Children
Genre & Keywords Picture Book, Food, Art, Magical Realism
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased from Chapters, Hardcover
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Julia and Simca are two young friends who agree that you can never use too much butter – and that it is best to be a child forever. Sharing a love of cooking and having no wish to turn into big, busy people who worry too much and dawdle too little, they decide to create a feast for growing and staying young. A playful, scrumptious celebration of the joy of eating, the importance of never completely growing up, and mastering the art of having a good time, Julia, Child is a fictional tale loosely inspired by the life and spirit of the very real Julia Child – a story that should be taken with a grain of salt and a generous pat of butter.

“You are cordially invited to this tale for all ages about a child named Julia. While the story contains no true knowledge of (the real) Juia Child and should be taken with a grain of salt and perhaps even a generous pat of butter, we hope that you will find something here to savor. If you discover, as we have, that some stories taste best when shared with others, then all the better.”

It all began with sole meunière. In a single bite, Julia’s life is transformed forever, inspiring a love affair with French food that was to last a lifetime. Along with the help of her childhood friend, Simca, the two girls embark on a culinary quest filled with friendship, imagination, and a little bit of magic. There are ingredients and recipes galore. Some successful. Others…not. But no matter the dish, the recipe or the results, Julia and Simca know one thing for certain: You can never use too much butter. Oh, and there is nothing better than being a child forever. Determined to avoid the stressful, colourless fate that seems to await every grown-up around them, Julia and Simca devise the perfect recipe to remain young. With a dash of wonder, a spoonful of fun, and an undeniable dusting of joie de vivre Julia and Simca create the perfect recipe with unexpected, and decidedly marvellous, results.

“Life was filled with far too many grown-ups who did not know how to have a marvellous time. The girls had no wish to become big, busy people – wary and worried, hectic and hurried.”

When I first heard of Julia, Child by Canadian author Kyo Maclear, it was love at first sight. Or should I say amour? As a self-professed ‘Foodie’ with a penchant for all things gastronomy-related, Maclear’s latest publication loosely inspired by the life of the wonderful and enigmatic Julia Child was a must-buy. Of course, I would be lying if I said that Julie Morstad’s eye-catching cover didn’t also play a large role in this decision. Coincidentally, I had recently received a number of requests that I resurrect my ‘Child’s Play’ feature and review a greater number of picture books. “It must be kismet!”, I thought. Understandably, it wasn’t hard to decide where I wanted to begin, and I’m so thankful that this was the book I chose. A scrumptious, adorable, enchanting story about following one’s passion and the importance of remaining young at heart and in spirit, Kyo Maclear’s Julia, Child is a book that will touch and inspire readers of all ages.

“All those big, busy people who were weighed down with worries, who couldn’t remember the last time they climbed a tree or even rode a bicycle, who never watched cartoons and only read biographies – well, they began to have a marvellous, rowdy, childlike time.”

While Maclear clearly takes a great number of liberties with Julia Child’s life, there is no doubt that the author has perfectly captured the chef’s vibrant personality and zest for life. As Child herself once famously remarked “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” Her appetites, not only for food but for life itself are legendary, and I appreciated seeing this sentiment echoed in Julia and Simca’s own stories. The two girls are passionate about what they love – cooking – and want to share this passion with others. Their joy, innocence and inventiveness permeates every inch of the text and inspires even the most cynical of readers to feel young again. One can’t help but be tickled by the girls’ attempts to help those poor, pitiably grown-ups recapture their lost youth. As children we cannot wait to grow up. No bedtime. Cookies for breakfast. Endless sleepovers. Never knowing that the novelty will eventually wear off and will be replaced instead with an often unimaginably, seemingly unbearable amount of responsibility and pressure. In our haste to keep up, plug in and achieve all that we wish to, it’s not difficult to lose sight of the little pleasures in life. To stop and smell the roses. To savour a particularly flavourful bite. To share a simple meal with the ones we love. In a mere 32 pages, however, Maclear helps one to recapture those feelings of elation and exuberance, even if only for a moment. The author’s use of language is also to be applauded. I’m a firm believer that one should not speak down to or condescend to children. Maclear uses a sprinkling of French phrases and a number of fun, colourful adjectives to bring the story more clearly to life. While it might prove challenging or might not be fully appreciated by younger readers, the author’s vibrant narrative voice will encourage children to enquire about words and concepts they don’t know, and delight in those they do.

“They made smaller portions – not too little, not too big, just enough to feed the sensible children from whom these senseless grown-ups grew.”

Illustrated throughout by the phenomenally talented Canadian artist, Julie Morstad, Julia, Child is a delectable feast for the eyes. Using a combination of ink, gouache and digital illustration, Morstad’s beguiling, whimsical illustrations with a distinct Parisian flair perfectly compliment the text and evolve right alongside the story. Nowhere is this more evident than in the artist’s interpretation of the effect of Julia and Simca’s scrumptious and magical dishes on their unsuspecting and staid diners. As they devour petit gâteau, cheese soufflé and crusty baguettes, these once staid adults are brought to life with bright bursts of colour and lively, energetic movement and expressions that won’t fail to make readers smile. Equally charming are all the small, delightful details that might go overlooked without a more careful perusal. Julia’s ever-present roller-skates. The small recipe cards covered with childlike wisdom. The industrious, clever cat always underfoot. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the most wonderful surprise of all: When removed and turned to the other side, the book’s jacket doubles as a beautiful 11.5 x 24 inch poster featuring Julia, Simca, and their unique recipe for success. It’s a beautiful image that, when framed, would make a lovely edition to a child’s bedroom as a piece of art. Best of all, the hardcover of the book itself is printed with the same design as the book jacket, so the reader needn’t worry about losing any of splendour of Morstad’s work by removing it.

“The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.
So Julia and Simca made a cookbook to remind them.”

Ooh, la, la, la. C’est magnifique! Using one of history’s most recognizable and beloved figures as her inspiration, Kyo Maclear has cooked up the perfect recipe for success with a mouth-watering, heart-warming tale that will delight and entertain readers of all ages. A celebration and adoration of French cuisine acts as a catalyst for discussion and thoughtful reflection in a story emphasizes the importance of embracing one’s passions and remaining young at heart. Perfect for the young and the young at heart, Julia, Child is a scrumptious treat that readers won’t be able to resist devouring in a single sitting. Bon Appétit!

Overall Rating

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Perogyo @ Perogies & Gyoza wrote “What do you make when you add a love of cooking to a bowl full of friendship and bake with the talent of two of Canada’s most loved children’s book artisans? Julia, Child.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Sal @ Sal’s Fiction Addiction wrote “It is a celebration of good food, friendship, being young, enjoying life to its fullest, and loving your days spent doing what you happily do.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Jennifer @ Novel Nutritious wrote “An excellent read-aloud and a good book for encouraging different “ingredients” to create recipes of the imagination.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

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