No question about it, Julia Child managed to find love and success and a career and cook a mess of really yummy food. And do it on her terms, too.
That's the teachable message for kids of all ages in "Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child" (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99), a new, fun picture book about the woman who became television's beloved "French Chef."
Hartland, a New York City-based author and illustrator, uncannily captures Julia — it's hard to call her anything else — as she comes slowly, fitfully, into her glory. Hartland deftly portrays in both word and drawing the awkward grace, the passionate personality and the spunky gusto of her subject. At times, you can practically hear Julia's trademark trill leaping cheerily out of the pages.
You can be sure Julia's many friends and fans who remember her vividly will embrace this affectionately sassy book, especially as the 100th anniversary of Julia's birth (Aug. 15) calls to mind all she did to draw generations into the kitchen. Yet, this book has a colorful zest that should appeal to the younger generation who've arrived since Julia's death in 2004 at age 91.
"I hope they will be more open-minded and try new foods," says Hartland, when asked what she wanted kids to get out of the book.
To that end, there's a recipe for Jessie's crepes (Hartland's recipe) at the end of the book that children are encouraged to make. (There's also, early on, a recipe for a galantine, a sort of fancy French meatloaf, calling for pickled tongue, cognac, boned chicken, minced calf's udder, black truffle and aspic, among other ingredients. I wouldn't attempt this at home; consider it an illustrated example of Julia getting crazy in the kitchen.)
"I also loved her character," Hartland says. "I heard she was rebellious and not a particularly good student, that she found her love of cooking late in her life, that she never gave up and had perseverance. She tried a lot of things. She was awkward and didn't fit in."
And this leads to Hartland's wish for parents reading this book.
"I want parents to be accepting of the children they have and not push a child in one direction or another. Let a child's talent bloom," she says.
"Julia's parents wanted her to get married and be a housewife. She didn't want that."
Hartland hopes her book on Child will kick off a series of picture books about famous Americans. Steve Jobs is up next, she says.
"That will be more about technology and ideas," Hartland adds. "I'd love to do more books about food. I've always wanted to illustrate a cookbook."
Why start with Julia?
"I used to watch her as a child on television in black and white," Hartland says. "My mother didn't like to cook. She really hated to cook. I loved watching this woman cooking on TV and cooking with enthusiasm. ... She was a trailblazer for women too."