Author Chat: Kyo Maclear on Julia, Child (+ a giveaway!)

Look what’s officially hitting shelves today!

This charming, whimsical tale very loosely inspired by the real life friendship of Julia Child and Simone Beck is cooked to fingertip-kissing perfection and definitely has my name written all over it.

I literally squealed with delight when I first saw Julie Morstad’s scrumptious, I-could-just-eat-you-all-up ink, gouache and Photoshop illos — so many adorable details and the childlike sophistication is oh-so-français. 🙂

True, this book had me at the cover, but when I read Kyo Maclear’s spritely celebration of good food, friendship, fearlessly pursuing your passions, growing young, and never forgetting how to have a marvelous time, I could almost hear the real Julia’s rousing cheer, chirrup and hoot of approval. After all, it was she who said, “That’s what human life is all about — enjoying things.”

In Julia, Child (Tundra Books, 2014), we meet cooking buddies Julia and Simca, who firmly believe it’s “best to be a child forever” and are therefore dismayed by all the big, busy, hurried, “wary and worried” grown-ups around them.

Art © 2014 Julie Morstad

What to do? Cook special ‘growing young’ recipes, of course. They whip up a delectable feast complete with “fluffy clouds of cheese soufflé,” “perfect loaves of crusty baguette,” and “a golden compote of fresh peaches, sweet as summer sunlight . . . ” Magnifique!

The big busy people devour every morsel, but something isn’t right. Talk about greedy and grabby! Can the girls come up with another recipe to turn these adults into sensible children once again?

I’m so pleased Toronto-based author Kyo Maclear is here today to talk about this mouthwatering story, her best job ever, and what she’s learned from her children. Put on your best bib, help yourself to some Wonder Seeds, and bask in the joie de vivre. Bon Appétit!

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Which came first: wanting to write about the importance of never growing up, or wanting to capture Julia Child’s indomitable spirit in a children’s story? What will you remember most about working on this project?

What drew me to Julia Child was her outsized personality and lust for life. When I wrote this story I had been thinking a lot about what it would take to live a life from the point of view of abundance and generosity rather than from a position of scarcity. (Scarcity thinking—whether it be the feeling of not having enough time, or not having enough resources to share—seems to be the default mode for many of us in North America.)

Julia Child’s message—that to be a bountiful and happy eater is to be a bountiful and happy human—seemed both a timely and timeless one to me. We all (big and small) need a little sweetness and slowness, a little less hoarding and a little more giving.

I knew Julie Morstad would be the perfect person to illustrate this book. I am a longtime fan of her work and it was such a highlight when I saw her initial sketches. I wanted the tone to be pitched somewhere between the whimsy of Amelie and the thoughtfulness of Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and I feel that Julie got it beautifully right.

Another highlight was getting the go-ahead from the Julia Child estate. (Speaking of generosity…) I am so grateful that they saw value in this book, even though it’s only loosely patterned on Julia Child’s actual life. I tried to be true to her spirit, if not the literal facts of her career, and I feel happy that they saw this.

Cutie Pie!

Why was working in a French pâtisserie the most enjoyable job you’ve ever had? In what specific ways did it help inspire this book?

Well, I worked there from ages 15-18, so it was more than a job; it was a kind of tutelage. For three years of adolescence, my entire social life—relationships and friendships—swirled around that pastry shop. My employer, an elderly Parisian woman named Nadine, became my model and mentor. A wearer of silk neck scarves, she did absolutely everything—from slicing a sandwich to peeling a mango—with the utmost flair and finesse. She taught me the difference between a bun and a baguette, a macaron and a Madeleine. She showed me that something austere was best accompanied by something frivolous. She also taught me to keep things simple. Not bad lessons to impart to a future storywriter.

Were you interested in cooking when you were growing up? If so, who taught you how to cook, and what were some of the dishes you especially liked to make or eat?

Cooking wasn’t a major interest though I was lucky to be raised in a food-loving family. When I was eleven a parent of a friend taught me to make lasagna and a cheesecake. These were very exotic foods to someone who grew up on a proverbial diet of sushi and Shepherd’s pie.

Such concentration!

Your story reminds me of two quotes from Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up,” and, “It takes a long time to become young.” So, via the wisdom of children, what have you learned from your two sons recently, and what do they think of this book?

My youngest son is an indicator species for stress in our family. (He prizes his “relaxation time” so much I sometimes suspect that he was already wearing a lounge coat and communicating with the slow living movement in utero.) If there are too many plans or activities in a given week, he will freak out and stage a wildcat strike.

Both my sons teach me to slow down. When I get really busy and harried they give me this look that makes me feel ridiculous. Sometimes my eldest son will crack me up by saying “Gotta Get These Pineapples to Hawaii”— a catchphrase in our family for rushing for no reason.

It’s not that they are particularly placid children. It’s just that when my sons rush, it’s because they are rushing to do something FUN.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that they approve of this book. It wasn’t a hard sell. They both like cake and stories in which children are shown to be infinitely wiser than the foolish grown-ups raising them.

Kyo with her two sons.

Are you a longtime Julia Child fan? How has she influenced your thinking and cooking today?

To be truthful, I only had a passing knowledge of Julia Child before I wrote this book. I’ve always loved French food, though I rarely cook it at home. It’s fairly demanding (as you probably know) and I usually look for quick and easy rewards when I make a meal (i.e. pretty bowls of pasta)—since, for me, cooking is an antidote to the longer labor of writing.

What do you like best about Julie Morstad’s illustrations? Were you able to offer suggestions about the art?

 I love everything about the illustrations but I especially love the blotted line look. It feels very French. Andy Warhol used a similar style in his commercial work in the 1950s. I also love the little grace and humor notes Julie has sprinkled throughout the book—that wonderful swooshy rainbow (so psychedelic!), the crying lumberjack (hilarious!) As far as suggestions go, I made so few (just some prop ideas, like the roller skates.)

You are hosting a fantasy dinner party for 6 people who have taught you about what is truly important in life. Who are they, what did you learn from them, and what will be on the menu? (Your guests may be from any time or place.)

For sheer party potential:

John Berger—how to have an abundant heart and capacious mind

Maria Callas—how to sing in your own beautiful-ugly voice

Maurice Sendak—how to be an iconoclast

Junot Diaz—how to hold the door open for others

Ryszard Kapuściński—how to travel

Charles Mingus—how to make the complicated simple


It would be a music themed dinner. Tapas and strong cocktails.

Click to download a free recipe card!

If you could meet Julia Child today, what would you say to her?

Thank you!

What’s next for you?

 A few picture books, a graphic novel, and a grown-up book about birds.

Please share a favorite recipe, preferably something that will help us grow young.

The “chocolate almond cupcakes” mentioned in my book were inspired by Julia Child’s beloved “Reine de Saba” recipe. I made a version of this recently with my kids. If you’re looking for a moist cake with a rich chocolaty flavor, there’s nothing better. (See: Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I)

*Jama’s note: Click here for the Reine de Saba recipe, which I made a couple of years ago to celebrate Julia’s 100th birthday.

Today’s Special: Slow Down Soup (generously seasoned with wonder, imagination and sweetness)

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written by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Julie Morstad
published by Tundra Books, July 8, 2014
Picture Book for all ages, 32 pp.
*Dust jacket folds out to a delectable poster

For a chance to win a brand new copy of Julia, Child, simply leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EDT) Thursday, July 10, 2014.

You may also enter by sending an email with “Julia” in the subject line to: readermail (at)

Extra entries for blogging, tweeting or Facebooking about the giveaway (mention in your comment here). Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

For more unhurried delights, please visit:

***ETA: If you have a Twitter account, check out the big Tundra Books JULIA, CHILD Sweepstakes!!


* Interior spreads from Julia, Child posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2014 Kyo Maclear, illustrations © 2014 Julie Morstad, published by Tundra Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


46 thoughts on “Author Chat: Kyo Maclear on Julia, Child (+ a giveaway!)

  1. Great post, terrific interview, and I WANT THIS BOOK! I shared that desire (and your drawing) on FB.


  2. Oh! I had no idea about this book Jama. Thank you so much for sharing it here today and for chatting with Kyo Maclear. I know it will find a spot on my food and cooking shelves.


  3. The COVER is ADORABLE!!!
    I guess this is in the spirit of Julia Child, and that’s lovely — I’m glad people still write about and remember her.


  4. What adorable photos of the author! Love the flowers in her hair 🙂 I liked reading about Nadine — she sounds like a top-notch mentor. The book looks fantastic.


  5. Just the thought of this book raised my hairs – yeah, goosebumps deluxe! Great post (even if I can’t even look at the chocolate cupcakes – just too hot!)`, Jama – can’t wait to read the book!


  6. Life long fan of Julia Child, so am happy to know of this delightful children’s book. Discovered your blog this evening by chance. Now subscribed by email and look forward to following along. I taught elementary school for 30 years. My collection of alphabet books is one of the few things that I brought home with me when I retired. I’m having fun reading your alphabet book reviews. Great idea!


    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for finding AS and for subscribing — and sorry about the delayed response to your nice comment. SO nice to meet another Julia and alphabet books fan!


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