Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat
Illustrated by Amy Bates
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012
Buy now from Amazon.com
“Cozy.” “Lyrical.” “Playful.” “Charming.” —Publishers Weekly
A hilarious true story about the beloved chef’s first cat, a Parisian who lapped up Child’s leftovers but preferred mice. For cat-lovers, foodies, Julia Child fans, and everyone who loves a tasty picture book.
- CCBC Choices 2013 – Best Books of the Year
- 4 starred reviews
Here’s what the reviewers are saying:
Kirkus Reviews, April 2012, Starred Review ★
Reich lures children into the scrumptious Parisian world of the legendary chef Julia Child with the story of her mouse-loving cat, Minette. It’s a funny thought: The now-famous American gourmet painstakingly prepares duck pâtés and cheese soufflés with the freshest French ingredients when all her cat really wants to eat is raw mouse: “How delightful the crunch of fresh-caught mouse, devoured on the living room rug!” Even if readers have never heard of Julia Child or the delightful interlude she and her husband Paul shared in Paris in the late 1940s, the joy of an enthusiastic food-lover in the kitchen is palpable: “She floured and flipped, pitted and plucked, rinsed and roasted, sizzled and skimmed.” Bates’ inventively composed kitchen- and marketscapes in warm watercolors and pencil capture this joy as well, as readers see the very-tall, very-cheerful cook in action. The atmospheric narrative is festive, fresh and festooned with quotations from Julia and Paul’s letters, as well as from Child’s memoir, My Life in France (2006). As revealed in the afterword, Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was an actual adopted tortoiseshell cat, the first of many cats for the loving couple. A fine recipe for pleasure: Julia Child, the culinary arts, Paris and a lucky cat. Magnifique! (afterword, notes, sources, glossary and pronunciation guide, author’s note) (Picture book/biography. 4-8)
School Library Journal, June 2012, Starred Review★
Using quotations from source materials that include Child’s autobiography and letters, Reich crafts the story of how the addition of the new family cat coincided with the woman’s first steps toward her magnificent culinary career. As she visits the markets, begins classes at Le Cordon Bleu, and experiments with a new recipe, Minette is there at her heels. Sophisticated cat that she is, she is often shown in a svelte feline pose (even on a chair at the dinner table) except for a spread on which she pounces on a leftover bone. Besides the cat’s antics, the text also describes the markets, cooking smells, and ambience of Paris so well that it is easy to see how Child was inspired to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Using a color palette similar to Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings, Bates’s pencil and watercolor illustrations support this feast for the senses. – Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library
Booklist, June 2012, Starred Review★
“Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was…perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris.” Reich finds an easy and appealing way into the biography of Julia Child through a tortoiseshell cat who got to smell delicious smells and nibble exquisite stews (though mouse was always preferred). The book begins with Julia and husband Paul wandering arm in arm though Paris; huddled against a doorway is the yet-to-be-named Minette. And when she comes to live with the Childs (“A house without a cat is like life without sunshine”), the couple is charmed. Meanwhile, Julia is learning to cook, finding out how to tell a good potato from a bad one, and buying enough knives to “fill a pirate ship.” Finally, she is ready to make that one special dish, and Minette is ready to dig in. Bates’ illustrations work marvelously well with this charming conceit. The pen-and-watercolor pictures have the required retro look for the time and place but never lose sight of Minette, who is an important part of Julia?s cooking journey. Those who suppose that Minette was created for this book will find in the notes the sources for most of the cat-centered incidents, along with quotations.
Shelf Awareness, July 10, 2012, Starred Review★
Susanna Reich (Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso) tells the captivating story of the path to good food and a calling for Julia Child, through the eyes of her cat, Minette.
Amy Bates’s (The Dog Who Belonged to No One) watercolor-and-pencil illustrations re-create post-World War II Paris, when Julia and her husband arrived from America for Paul Child’s work with the U.S. Information Agency. Julia begins her quest to concoct good meals from the scrumptious ingredients at her disposal. Bates illustrates the city streets like scenery for a play, with fresh bread on exhibit in the windows of the boulanger and beef hanging on display in the boucherie. From Julia’s pots and pans, Minette could detect “the delicious smells of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese soufflés, and duck pâtés.” The cat might take the occasional nibble of cheese or a sip of milk, “But of course, mouse and bird were much preferred,” as the book’s refrain goes. One day, however, Julia rubs meat with salt and pepper, herbs and spices, and marinates it for three days. Even Minette cannot resist these leftovers.
Reich’s internal rhymes make the proceedings feel festive, while her overall prose conveys Julia’s seriousness of purpose. The smooth flow of her narrative belies the impressive amount of research she undertook to relate actual conversations and events. Reich and Bates make it seem inevitable that Child would become the most famous cook in the United States and use her own culinary journey to lead other women along her path.
Discover: A delectable banquet that charts Julia Child’s culinary progress through the eyes of her cat, Minette.—Jennifer M. Brown, children’s editor
Between this book’s red-checked endpapers lies a delectable tale about Julia Child discovering her culinary calling in Paris. With Child’s own writings as the source for a baker’s dozen of apt quotes (“You are the butter to my bread,” says husband Paul), this is as truthful an account as could be hoped for, while still being told from the point of view of Paul and Julia’s cat, Minette. Reich has a storyteller’s instinct for entrancing incident and a poet’s gift for sound and sensory detail. Minette smells “mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese soufflés, and duck pâtés;” Julia “baked and blanched, blended and boiled, floured and flipped, pitted and plucked.” Who knew cooking involved such a wealth of action verbs? Posing or pouncing, Minette is a vivacious presence in Bates’s pencil and watercolor art, an adored pet lucky enough to share the fruits of Julia’s labors. The roofs and markets of Paris and Julia’s busy kitchen all spring to life in a pleasing palette keyed to both fresh food and tortoiseshell cat: chocolate-brown, buttery-yellow, and coppery-red are nicely countered by soft blues and lettuce-green hues. Julia is shown with her characteristic heft and sensible shoes; when she’s with Paul, their mutual affection glows in every line. This book is a charmer to share aloud with young people who enjoy a well-paced story and with cat lovers and food lovers of any age. Notes and sources, an afterword summarizing Child’s life, a glossary, and author’s note are appended. —Joanna Rudge Long