If you were to show a young child a picture or even television footage of Julia Child, he may giggle, perhaps even thinking she is a giant (she was after all six feet tall, an enormous height for a woman). However, were you to read with a child the children’s book Bon Appetit! The delicious life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (who also did the illustrations), she might come to a different conclusion. Adding to the newly popular “picture book biography” group, Hartland’s book is a great way for children to learn about one of the cooking field’s most popular and well known figures. Although it’s a picture book, it is quite text heavy, with the font difficult at times to read (at least it was for me on some pages) so I would definitely recommend an adult to read the book with a child as opposed to a child reading it themselves. The illustrations, while not “fancy,” are more whimsical and from what I’ve read of Julia and her personality, the whimsical seems to suit her better.
The book covers Child’s life from start to finish and for many adults, when the book gets to the part of Julia and her husband Paul moving to Paris for Paul’s job, it’s like reading an abridged version of Julia’s autobiography, My Life in France. Hartland incorporates a slew of items that would offer innumerable learning benefits to young children, including the use of French words and phrases with the translations featured below, historical references (the book progresses in chronological order of Julia’s life) like when televisions were first invented, and the mentioning of foods that many children would not be familiar with.
Obviously I read this book from an adult perspective and yet I could just imagine the wonderment that would escape from a child upon reading it. There are countless biographies for children on the more well known American figures (past presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Louisa May Alcott, Helen Keller) and yet Julia is certainly a timeless figure too. Although cooking may not be everyone’s thing, a children’s book about the first female to truly break into what had been up until her time, a male dominated field, might show young boys and girls that cooking should not be tied to gender stereotypes, that it can be anyone’s dream if they want it to. And even if they have no prior background experience, like Julia when she first began her cooking endeavors, nothing is ever impossible.
As an adult I love reading children’s books, especially if it is a terrific biography of one of my heroes and also my name twin.