Cooking up the Recipe for Youth with Julia, Child

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad

Published by Tundra Books in 2014

Several of my favourite things come together in this picture book. First is writing by Kyo Maclear, who also wrote two of my favourite picture books: Spork and Virginia Wolf. Second is this is a Tundra picture book, which almost always means it will be beautiful. This was my first experience with illustrator Julie Morstad, and her wonderful art in Julia, Child has ensured I will look for more of her handy work.

Julia, Child (yes an illusion to Julia Child, but not actually about her) is telling two stories. First is of Julia’s love for food. When she was “very little” Julia fell in love with French food, “She loved to eat French food. And she especially loved to cook it.” Along with friend Simac (who reminds me of myself with her long blond hair always up in a pony tail), the two friends learn how to cook, while also deciding they never grow up and be the oldest children ever.

The second part of the story involves Julia and Simac trying to solve the problem of life being filled with “too many grown-ups who did not know how to have a marvelous time” (npg). The solution the two friends come up with is making a recipe for “growing young” (npg). Through trial, error, and food, Julia and Simac remind the adults of how to be young. They even create a book of recipes called Mastering the Art of Childhood, by Us (a further play on the Julia Child link and her famous cook book Mastering The Art of French Cooking).

These two story lines seem a bit disjointed from one another, which was not something I had before come across in Maclear’s writing. However, it is still a marvellous read that places the young Julia and Simac as being much wiser than the busy adults surrounding them (I always love when child characters have the upper hand). This is further emphasized in Worstad’s art, as adults are merely sketches, outlines with no color, while children are painted in beautiful pastel coloured clothing bursting with life. So despite the book feeling disjointed to me, it is beautiful and empowering.