One Magnifique Feast with Minette Before Breakfast …

h1 June 19th, 2012 by jules

These are sketches of Julia Child from illustrator Amy June Bates. Do you love this as much as I do?

I love Amy’s beautiful art work. As I was telling a friend recently, I get inordinately excited when I find out she’s illustrated a new picture book. And this book’s artwork is simply beguiling. Fortunately, the writing is great, too.

I’m talking about Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, released by Abrams in early May. (Be sure to remove the book’s dust jacket to see the wonderful hidden cover.) Written by award-winning fiction and nonfiction author Susanna Reich, it tells the story of a snapshot in Child’s life — the time during which she and her husband Paul lived in Paris, she began classes at L’École du Cordon Bleu, and they adopted a cat. Or, as Reich writes, “shall we say, Minette adopted Julia and Paul.”

This is all about a cat—Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child, “perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris”—who was given food scraps by the person who became the most famous American cook and who, in Reich’s words, revolutionized the way Americans eat — yet sometimes turned her “superior nose” up to these dishes, always preferring fresh-caught mouse to, say, Julia’s “scrumptious ‘chicken liver custard'” … But, hey, that’s a cat for you.

Minette’s story is engaging, but as the Kirkus review has already noted, even those not familiar with Julia Child (or, I might add, even those who aren’t cat-lovers), will be drawn in by the rich and (dare I say) delicious depictions—in both words and art—of Julia in her kitchen, learning to cook, passionate about her (in the words of Reich) baking and blanching, blending and boiling, draining and drying, pitting and plucking, sizzling and skimming, and much more.

With an infectious energy and what comes across as a warm-hearted reverence for Child and her accomplishments, this picture book biography entertains. And Amy’s art? Seriously, big fan here. She’s better than ever in this picture book. (Her primarily earth-toned palette is particularly pleasing.)

Note: The book also closes with an Afterword about Julia’s life, as well as an Author’s Note and a “Notes” spread that includes sources (“[n]one of the dialogue in this book is invented,” writes Susanna) and a glossary and pronunciation guide (for occasional French words).

Below, Amy shares some early sketches and final spreads, and I thank her for sharing.

Character sketches
(Click each to enlarge)


Cover evolution
(Click each to enlarge)


Early sketch and final spread (without text):
“Day and night she could hear the bells of Sainte-Clotilde tolling the hour. And day and night she could smell the delicious smells of mayonnaise, hollandaise, cassoulets, cheese soufflés, and duck pâtés wafting from the pots and pans of her owner,
Julia Child. But life had not always been like this for Minette. Oh no, not at all.”

(Click each to enlarge)

Early sketch and final spread (without text):
“Julia and Paul’s apartment was dark—and so cold in the winter that they had to wear coats in the living room. There were birds on the windowsill—and mice in the walls. The kitchen was up a narrow flight of stairs, and there was no refrigerator, only an icebox. But this was home, and Julia and Paul warmed it with family and friends.
There was only one thing missing.”

(Click each to enlarge)

Early sketch and final spread (without text):
“‘Une maison sans chat, c’est la vie sans soleil!’
‘A house without a cat is like life without sunshine!’
And so Julia and Paul adopted Minette, a mischievous, energetic
poussiequette with a lovely speckled coat. Or, shall we say, Minette adopted Julia and Paul. Julia and Paul were charmed by Minette’s delicate whiskers, her superior nose,
and her quick little paws.”

(Click each to enlarge)

“As the months passed, Julia became quite the gourmet cook.”

More early sketches
(Click each to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

MINETTE’S FEAST: THE DELICIOUS STORY OF JULIA CHILD AND HER CAT. Copyright © 2012 by Susanna Reich. Illustrations © 2012 by Amy June Bates. Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York. Images used with permission of Amy June Bates.

20 comments to “One Magnifique Feast with Minette Before Breakfast …”

  1. I love Julia Child. Amy’s artwork is amazing. Off to my local bookstore to see if I can get a copy. Thanks for getting my morning off to such a charming start.

  2. It’s wonderful to see all these sketches, particularly of Minette in motion. I like that the focus on Minette makes the biography more accessible to children.

  3. I love seeing rough sketches, and these are among the best. Lovely figure studies, both human and feline!

  4. Miao!! LOVE this. It’s a beautiful book and such a thrill to see all the sketches. Thanks, both of you! 🙂

  5. What gorgeous sketches. Seeing the bones of a book is such a pleasure. I particularly enjoy the energy of the original line-work in the spread with young Julia looking out the window. Lovely.

  6. That’s the thing about Amy’s artwork. Even just her sketches are beautiful. (I keep using the word “beautiful” repeatedly, but ah well … it’s true.)

  7. Sketch Heaven. I love the second cover concept.

  8. The energetic sketches translate beautifully into the finished spreads – and in the multiple lines I can hear the swish of a skirt, the flutter of a bird or the twitch of a whisker. Lovely writing too.

  9. Amy’s work is always beautiful and wonderfully expressive of the text. It’s a delight to see the process.

  10. I just ran into this at the store. I love this book!

  11. Can’t wait to get this book. I agree with Matt– sketch heaven.

  12. Love these! Very cool Art Nouveau-y feel to some of them, and I like the compositions and the lively sketches. Makes me want to go to Paris and eat fantastic food!

  13. oooooooo I love Amy’s work – her sketches are gorgeous and gorgeous some more!!

  14. I really needed some extra inspiration today. This post did it, thank you!

  15. I’ve been following Susanna Reich on INK and so excited when she’d mentioned that Amy Bates was illustrating her story! Merveilleux! Psst, Amy…those illustrations from Swan Lake from Juls’ Breakfast with you a few posts back..LOVE! Hope to see this book at the gift shop shelf at the Smithsonian after seeing Julia’s kitchen replicated…oh, wouldn’t that be fun for both Susanna & Amy.

  16. wonderful sketches… so cool to see the line work. reminds me of Mucha

  17. What gorgeous (I’ll use this overused adjective instead of beautiful!) illustrations. I always feel so lucky to be able to see the sketches. It’s like we are given the chance to sneak into the illustrators studio. Thank you as always for that.

  18. […] Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a post today on the preliminary artwork for Minette’s […]

  19. I completely LOVE it! I find Julia Child charming and brilliant. I read her book of letters last year. What a mind, what courage, what art.

  20. Scrumptious!!

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