Tuesday, September 15, 2009

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk
by Lucy Knisley
195 pages
Touchstone Books (Simon & Schuster), 2008

It's impossible to walk past this book without having the cover call out! If you give in and pick it up for a closer look, you'll find one of the most creative travel journals imaginable.

Lucy Knisley, nearing graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her mother took a six-week trip to Paris in celebration their milestone birthdays (her 22nd and her mother's 50th) . French Milk is Lucy's journal of the trip, as told through drawings, photos, and text.

We follow their daily excursions through the city - from the Eiffel Tower, art museums, and boutiques, to cafes, bistros, bookstores (where she's delighted to find many familiar 'friends' so far from home), and even Oscar Wilde's grave.
Knisley shares what she's thinking, reading, and worrying about, but mostly we learn what she's eating! The book is full of drawings and descriptions of meals, restaurants, markets, wines, and the delicious French whole milk. Evidently there's no such thing as skim milk in Paris!
We also catch very honest glimpses into her relationship with her mother.

This book provided a light, fun look at a Parisian adventure. It would appeal to anyone interested in travel journals, graphic novels, or food. It might also be a good introduction to graphic novels in general.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that some of the photos were not as clear as I would have liked. But then again, these were personal snapshots and it did add to the 'homemade' look. So, go ahead and spend a couple of hours with French Milk. I doubt you'll be disappointed!

(click on the photos to enlarge)


  1. Nice review. I felt the same way about the photos -- I was slightly disappointed by them. But the rest of the book was wonderful. I wish I could take a month off of work and travel some place wonderful with my mom.

  2. This looks so interesting. The aesthetic of it is beautiful!

    It's a shame to hear about the photos though - that seems to be the most compelling part.

  3. I really want to read this; it looks enchanting.

  4. This sounds lovely, JoAnn. Sometimes you find little gems in books like these and wonder why you never hear of them till now. You'll see me reading this soon, ha! Thanks!! :D

  5. I thought I would like this when you took a teaser from it last week, and now I am quite convinced. Sadly the Cornish Library Service hasn't invested in a copy, so now it is very firmly written on my wishlist.

  6. As I was telling Beth F the other day when she reviewed this, I was always slightly on the fence about this book, but your reviews have settled it: to the list it goes!

  7. Holy cow.....I must get my hands on this book. It looks delightful and while I'm reading it I can daydream that it is I who is walking the streets of Paris!! Fantastic review!!!

  8. I have never in my life even touched a graphic novel. I suppose I've been rather prejudiced. They seem like a mimic, and imposter of real, true blue books. Perhaps I'm wrong in this unfounded assumption. The minute I saw the photo of the cover, I told my friend sitting beside me, "Look how cute that is! I want to read this!" I laughed when I realized that your first comment praised the cover as well.

    I might just have to abandon my graphic-novel fears. You caught me in one sentence: "Lucy Knisley, nearing graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her mother took a six-week trip to Paris in celebration their milestone birthdays (her 22nd and her mother's 50th)." Well, goodness! Chicago and Paris? Two of my favorite places! I have never actually been to Paris (my mom promised to take me one day... we'll see how that turns out), but I have been to Chicago multiple times, and love it.

    Not to mention the fact that no one can resist a book that will force them to break open a bag of Oreos at first glance. I love books that talk of food. ( : Great review!

  9. Hi JoAnn - What a lovely book (and review!) I love books with drawings and marginalia but haven't delved into a fully fledged "graphic novel". Would you describe it as such or more a mash of a number of genres?

  10. Great review--and a really interesting way of presenting a travel book (even if the photos did disappoint you). Makes me want to hop a plane, though. Thanks!

  11. That looks fun. I hope to visit Paris some day, and that would be perfect to read there.

  12. Beth F. - Yes, too bad about the photos. I've always wondered what it would be like to travel somewhere for a month...a very different experience than visiting for a week, I'm sure!

    Saveophelia - The drawings really take center stage in this book. The photos give it a more personal touch, and I'm almost wondering if they were purposely of that quality to give it more of a 'homemade' or 'snapshot' feel. Either way, the book was still a lot of fun!

    Paperback Reader - Enchanting is a perfect word to describe it! I hope you can read it.

    Claire - Glad you'll be reading it, too. I first heard about it from Karen at Bookbath. She read it before her trip...perfect pre-travel choice!

    Fleurfisher - My library didn't have a copy, either. I got a 40% off coupon in my e-mail and bought it because I thought one of my daughters (the reluctant reader that loves all things French) would like it.

  13. Nymeth - I'm so glad! I hope you enjoy it.

    Staci - I spent some time dreaming of a trip to Paris, too. Maybe some day... *sigh*

    Madeleine - I never went near a graphic novel until my 'graphic novel experiment' last spring. Even though I'm still not a huge fan, I was pleasantly surprised. Here's the post, if you're interested-
    and the post to my favorite -

  14. Samantha - This is a definite 'graphic', but would be a great one to start with, especially if you're interested in the subject. Each page is one drawing, not a typical graphic with several per page. I put a couple links in my reply to Madeleine (above) that you might be interested in.

    DS - This was such a creative presentation! It's one of the reasons the book really appealed to me.

    Verity - I WILL get to Paris one day, too!!

  15. Okay...you have convinced me. I must read this book. The thing that attracts me to this book is the Mother/Daughter team. My 14yod loves French and plans on settling in a French speaking region. I would love to take her on a trip to France one day. Do you think my daughter will enjoy this read?

  16. I had never heard of this book, but the titel alone caught my attention!

  17. This is the first graphic novel that has ever really interested me, but I added it to my list, thanks! I love the idea of drawing your travels, even though I can't draw myself.

  18. ibeeeg - One of the reasons I bought this book was that I thought it would interest my 16 year old daughter who loves French and would eventually like to teach. However, there are a couple of things that might be considered objectionable for younger teens...it's hard to say because maturity levels vary so much at that age. It may have been fine for two of my daughters, but not the other. Feel free to email me if you'd like more specifics. And thanks for visiting!

    Megan Rebekah - Everything about this book calls for attention - title, cover, graphics. It's such fun.
    Thanks for stopping by!

    Lisa - I can't draw, either. I could quite possibly be the world's worst artist! Graphic novels are a whole new genre for me. I've only read a few, but have liked them...nice change of pace!

  19. My library has a copy of this book. I just placed it on hold. I look forward to this read and to seeing if it will be good for my daughter.

  20. ibeeeg - That's great! Please let me know what you think.

  21. This book looks really interesting. I've always wanted to go to France. The drawings that you shared were so detailed. I wish I had some artistic talent. I always loved the idea of keeping a detailed journal with sketches of what I was seeing, but my sketch skills are laughable. I'm definitely adding this book to my TBR list. I haven't had the opportunity to travel to Europe yet, but it's something I definitely want to do.

  22. Justicejenniferreads - This book really appealed to me. I'd love to go to Paris and this was presented so creatively! I was even more impressed because I am possibly the world's worst artist - lol!


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