Hardcover, 128 pages
Published March 31st 2015 by Harry N. Abrams (first published March 1st 2015)
Format read: ARC via publisher
Rutabaga and his magic cooking pot, Pot, join young adventurers Winnifred, Manny, and Beef on a quest to defeat a dragon, discover new ingredients, find monsters to have for and/or to dinner, and to save the day through cooking. Rutabaga will dare any danger to uncover new tastes, and there’s a whole world full of food to try—from roasted mud leech to spider soup to peanut butter on crackers. His heroic recipes combine real ingredients, fantasy ingredients, and real ingredients that sound fantastical. Rutabaga the Adventure Chef is the perfect adventure for any kid grossed out when something weird shows up on the dinner table.
So I picked the ARC up and took it home. And I am so very glad I did. Because I've found a book that is not only enjoyable, but an absolutely lovely introduction to cooking and healthy eating for the younger readers in my life.
Eric Colossal introduces us to Rutabaga, a feisty, fearless chef who is always on the lookout to find the best ingredients for his food. There is no obstacle or dragon that will stop Rutabaga from getting the freshest and most unique produce, while he also offers his culinary expertise in a variety of ways - e.g. curing royal pets, and going off to cook with Vikings.
If there's one word I would use to describe Rutabaga, it's "fun". From beginning to end, Colossal's stories for Rutabaga are full of sly humor and quirky details, as we begin to get to know Rutabaga and his penchant for finding the most unique ingredients to use in his delicious-sounding cooking.
While many of Rutabaga's recipes involve fictitious ingredients, there's no denying the book's gentle emphasis on the value of eating fresh ingredients and taking the time to enjoy your food. It's a great lesson for younger readers, especially as they continue to develop their culinary habits.
Outside of the sheer cooking aspect, Rutabaga also serves as a crafty jack-of-all trades throughout the novel. He frequently applies his cooking skills to other dilemmas - including figuring out the diet for a starving royal pet, and tracking a monster - and it's a nice reminder that a skillset like cooking isn't isolated to simply creating and producing dishes. There's practicality to that skill and related skills, which younger readers will likely also appreciate.
Each story is also nicely accentuated by Colossal's bold, yet detailed illustrations - they're a visual treat for an already very funny tale. And while the book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but readers will likely be relieved to know that there are definitely more books on the way.
Through Rutabaga's fearless adventures across kingdoms, forests and with the trusty Pot by his side, Colossal is helping young readers develop a strong appreciation for healthy food, and the art of cooking. And in a time where people are increasingly trying to emphasize healthy eating, this is a great thing.
I live in an area that has a strong emphasis on farm-to-fork cooking, and Rutabaga's ideals absolutely fit in with that mentality. I've already recommended Rutabaga to the librarians I work with, and will be looking forward to recommending the book to the teachers I work with, as well.
Highly recommend for graphic novel fans, and young foodies. This is the book for you.