Friday, April 4, 2014

2014 Awards Reading Report #2:
A Graphic Novel to Relish

Pun pun pun -- the Alex Award book I just finished is Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, a memoir of growing up 'foodie' by cartoonist Lucy Knisley.  It's another in the tradition of 'memoir with recipes' (think Under the Tuscan Sun or Tender at the Bone), written in cartoons instead of prose, and this is the perfect style for her story.

The narrative tells Knisley's entire life to date (she's about 30 now) in thematic vignettes, like the trip to Mexico at age 12, with best buddy & their moms,  who promptly came down with the flu.  While moms spent 4 days sick in the hotel, Lucy and Drew roamed the streets of San Miguel de Allende, discovering the best tamale carts and candy stands in town, as well as Mexican porn mags (for Drew -- no age limits for buying!) and how to handle a first period in a foreign language (for Lucy -- how embarrassing).  And all the time they thought their parents had no idea!  The recipe at the end of this chapter is, naturally, Heuvos Rancheros.

There's a chapter about her parents splitting up and moving with her mother to rural New York, where mom became a renowned chef and food writer.  The divorce seems to have been amicable, but Knisley makes very clear how different her two lives were, between her mom's rural handcrafted slow-food world and her dad's Manhattan fast-paced restaurant-appreciation world.  There's a move to Chicago for art school, and a whole new city and food scene to explore; a backpacking summer in Europe (and apricot croissants to die for!); and a recounting of friend Mark's disastrous Lemonade Chicken (takeaway lessons: avoid random recipes from the Internet, and even bad food is better with good company). Through it all, Knisley relishes both her childhood and the food that surrounded it, and (as a refreshing note to the previous Alex Award report) she adores her mother.  The title comes from a passage in Ray Bradbury's autobiographical novel of idyllic childhood, Dandelion Wine, which itself sprang from a short story first published in Gourmet magazine.

Relish is definitely recommended, and I'm going to recommend it for Bonnie & Uri's junior high class.  I think it might fit in nicely with Uri's "Food Studies" program.  It's fitting in nicely already with our graphic novel collection. 

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Awards Reading Update

I've read and enjoyed
Help for the Haunted
The Lives of Tao
Mother, Mother
Midwinterblood (Printz Award)
The Death of Bees

Not yet read
Golden Boy
The Sea of Tranquility
The Universe vs. Alex Woods

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