monica wellington on pastries and pirouettes

So pleased to welcome author, illustrator and teacher Monica Wellington to the blog today. I’m sure you’ve shared many of her 40+ children’s books in your classroom, library, or with your own kids or grandkids at home. She has a knack for creating kid friendly books that make learning fun and interesting, books that beg rereading and soon become beloved favorites.

I confess I first learned about Monica from her foodie books (no surprise). Who would not love Apple Farmer Annie, Pizza at Sally’s, Mr. Cookie Baker, or CrĂȘpes by Suzette? Naturally all of these picture books include delicious recipes. The simple lines and bright cheery colors in her art are pure, mouthwatering joy. And have you seen her Color and Cook series (Cookies, Cupcakes, Snacks, Tea Party!)? 🙂

Our focus today is on CrĂȘpes by Suzette (newly back in print), and Dear Ballerina, Monica’s latest picture book, just released by Holiday House on March 19, 2019. These two books represent enduring threads in Monica’s life. She’s a devoted Francophile, has loved the ballet since childhood, and her daughter Lydia figures in both stories (Lydia currently dances with the New York City Ballet, and her childhood pictures pop up in CrĂȘpes by Suzette ).

You may know that besides the new paperback edition, CrĂȘpes by Suzette is also available as an interactive App – a veritable feast of French culture (art, language, music, food, travel) presented as a multimedia experience (formidable!).

Dear Ballerina, with its soft pastel palette, is not only a nice introduction to ballet basics, but also a touching story of mentorship that will inspire young dancers everywhere.

Monica lives and works in New York, where she teaches children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts. If, like me, you’re a longtime fan of her books, you’ll enjoy our conversation, which is flavored with a delectable taste of Paris and some lovely personal photos.

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[tasty review + 2 recipes] In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels

 

Many of us think of French cooking as complicated, time consuming and just plain intimidating. We assume it requires special ingredients we don’t usually have on hand and sophisticated equipment.

And to teach French cooking to kids? Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

Toronto-based food and travel writer and educator Mardi Michels proves otherwise in her first cookbook, In the French Kitchen with Kids (Appetite/Random House, 2018).

A full-time French teacher to elementary school-aged boys and author of the popular eat. live. travel. write. blog, she runs after school cooking classes twice a week for 7-14-year-olds called Les Petits Chefs and Cooking Basics. They meet in the science lab to whip up such classic favorites as macarons, madeleines, pains au chocolat, and baguettes. They make short crust and choux pastry from scratch, and with proper knife skills, chop, slice and dice fruit and veggies to make berry galettes, ratatouille, steak frites, and beef and carrot stew.

 

 

So what makes this particular kids’ cookbook a standout among the zillions of others?

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[review + recipe] Fanny in France by Alice Waters and Ann Arnold

Bonjour Mes Amis!

Are you in the mood for a little trip to France?

I was so excited last Fall when I learned that renowned chef and restaurateur Alice Waters had written another children’s book about her daughter Fanny. I remember well when I first saw Fanny at Chez Panisse in a bookstore back in the mid 90’s.

You know that feeling when you see a book that looks interesting, and you casually pick it up, and as you’re fanning through the pages, your pulse starts to quicken and your senses go on high alert because, because — oh my, what’s this? wow! LOVE, yes! it’s love at first sight!?

I had not seen a book like that before — a children’s story with illustrated recipes! Usually stories were stories and recipes lived in cookbooks. But to combine the two? Brilliant!

So began my obsession newfound interest in food-related children’s books and illustrated cookbooks. I also wanted to move to Berkeley, California, immediately so I could dine regularly at Chez Panisse.

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[review and recipe] Kids Cook French by Claudine PĂ©pin, Jacques PĂ©pin and Shorey Wesen

Bonjour! Êtes vous affamĂ©? (Hello! Are you hungry?)

I don’t know about you, but after reading the yummy recipes in Kids Cook French (Quarry Books, 2015), I’m starving! At this very moment, I would love to feast on Claudine PĂ©pin’s Spring Menu: Eggs Jeannette with a Salad, Chicken Breast with Garlic and Parsley, SautĂ©ed Swiss Chard, Parsnip-Potato PurĂ©e, and Almond Cake. Mmmmmm!

You may know Claudine from any one or all three of the James Beard Award-winning PBS cooking series she appeared in with her father, legendary French chef Jacques PĂ©pin. It is natural that Claudine (an accomplished home cook and wine educator who married a chef), should publish a cookbook for kids, since she grew up with fine cuisine and now cooks most nights for her 11-year-old daughter Shorey.

Art © 2015 Jacques Pépin

True to Claudine’s guiding philosophy — that there’s no such thing as “kids food,” only “good food” — Kids Cook French doesn’t look or read like a children’s cookbook. You won’t find rebus-like directions in large print with little measuring spoons, or yet another “recipe” for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is not to say that the recipes are overly complicated, only that adult supervision is required for what are clearly family projects.

Claudine (center) with Shorey, Rollie, Jacques and Gloria (by Tom Hopkins).

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birthday treat: jessie hartland on bon appĂ©tit! (and a giveaway!)

Jessie in her kitchen (photo by Isabelle Dervaux).

Bonjour Mes Amis, et Bon Anniversaire, Julia!

We’re tickled pink that award-winning author, illustrator and commercial artist Jessie Hartland is here today to help us celebrate Julia Child’s 100th Birthday. Her graphic biography, Bon AppĂ©tit!: The Delicious Life of Julia Child (Schwartz & Wade, 2012), has everyone drooling with delirious delight.

Since its release in May, this exuberant feast of wacky-fun hand-lettered text and cartoony gouache paintings has earned a bevy of well-deserved accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.

And why not? In just 48 pages, Jessie has accomplished the seemingly impossible, chronicling Julia’s entire amazing life!: as a “gangly girl from Pasadena,” her prankster days at Smith College, her stint doing Top Secret work for the OSS in WWII and marrying bon vivant Paul Child, learning to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, traveling to Germany and Norway, writing and publishing her cookbook masterpiece, and finally launching her TV chef career. Yes, it’s all here, in this frenetic comic-scrapbook hybrid that perfectly captures Julia’s boundless energy and contaigious joie de vivre. There’s even a 32-step recipe for Chicken Galantine (“Here’s a little something I just whipped up!”) and Jessie’s very own recipe for Crepes. I’m sure Julia would get a kick out of every scrumptious detail. Formidable!

Before we hear from Jessie, please put on this Ecole des Trois Gourmandes badge in honor of Julia. She first wore it when she and her co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle started their cooking school in Paris, and Julia continued to wear it on “The French Chef.” Thanks to Julia, we can all be Hearty Eaters!

Designed by Paul Child

Now, please help me welcome Jessie Hartland to Alphabet Soup. We thank her for sharing all her wonderful personal photos and insights about creating this marvelous book! Continue reading