Saturday, May 16, 2015

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I slurped down this story like the sweet mango slush I had last night at a Thai restaurant. The Irwin mangos here have a different texture than the ones sold in Minnesota that come from Mexico. These Taiwanese mangos are not stringy but have a peach color that tastes like candy. They are native to northern India but grown on the southern part of Taiwan. I will sneak runs to the grocery store to keep an endless supply going in the fruit drawer come May when they are in season. They are addictive and devastatingly delicious. Lucy Knisley, writes about her love affair with food as the daughter of a chef. Food for her is a social act and it doesn't matter if it is good or bad but it is how it is spent with family and friends. This biographical graphic novel captures her enthusiasm, joy, and humor of traveling the world and eating different types of food. Interspersed throughout the chapters are some yummy recipes.

Lucy describes traveling to Japan to visit her friend at the American School of Japan (ASJ). I don't recall reading a book that describes an international school. Many of the teachers that I work with here at the Taipei American School come from ASJ, so it was fun to see a chapter from Lucy's teenage perspective. Much of her impressions are ones that I have had as well, particularly the picture of her staring at Japanese characters with a thought bubble that says, "Is this what it is like not being able to read?"

The coming-of-age story makes this better for older kids versus elementary. I have had too much experience with kiddos hiding in the book stacks acting hysterical over pictures of naked cartoon people. It is disruptive and it always seems like it is either the third or 5th graders. The text is fine but the the illustrations show Lucy with her friend that is a boy buying pornographic magazines in Mexico. The nudity on the magazines would set my students off with the showing of all parts female. Then when Lucy menstruates the first time it shows her in the bathroom with pink underwear. That even grosses me out, but I suppose kids are curious and maybe seeing a picture takes the fear out? I don't know. It depends on the reader.

I was surprised by the author's use of similes and metaphors in the book, something I haven't seen much in graphic novels. The writing drew me in more than the pictures. The pictures are fairly simple and while they show expressions, they are somewhat flat in color and dynamic lines. However, I like... like... like... the author's voice. She's enthusiastic, youthful, and playful. She jokes about her parents not letting her eat junk food or go to McDonalds and she shows she's adventurous in travel and eating. She comes across as someone who relishes life and isn't afraid to try different things.

4 Smileys

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