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You kids get off my lawn. 

Too Many Cooks

Too Many Cooks - Margaret McNamara, Nate Wragg

In general, I have philosophical objections to movie tie-in books for children. I resent spending money on cheap cash-ins. Anyone who has looked at the prices for children's books knows how spendy they are. I get it. Full color printing in a large format is more dear than printing out even hundreds of pages on newsprint for a paperback. That doesn't negate my irritation when I get nagged into spending money on something with half-arsed stills and lazy explication. I would rather spend money on books that are actually books, not some corporate reminder of a blockbuster. 


Although, now that I say that, philosophical is too harsh a term, and what I'm complaining about is Disney. So many of their tie-in books are lazy garbage, and their princess stuff can suck it. Television shows also have some really bad tie-in books; I'm looking at you, Dora. But my daughter and I have been reading some top-shelf tie-in stuff recently. It's probably no surprise that they're coming out of Pixar and Studio Ghibli. I mean, Ratatouille pulled off a Proust joke in a children's movie, for crying out loud. I can't even use words to express my abiding love for Studio Ghilbli and the ways they translate children's literature to the screen. <3


Too Many Cooks is a chatty little rhymed verse, with the requisite countings and parallelisms that are almost part of a checklist for kiddie lit. (Not that that's a problem.) The art is stylized versions of the movie art, but doesn't rely on stills or the plot of the movie. The thing about this book that earns my respect is the inclusion of very foreign, very technical cooking terms, and a whole mess of them. Roux, sauté, flambé, profiteroles, ragout. My daughter fairly lit up with their newness, paging back to see if she could remember whether to drop the t in the word fillet, the accent on julienne. I resurrected my degraded middle school French to teach her how to say, "Je m'appelle..."


All in all, it was a wonderful reading aloud experience, one of those times where I got to wallow in language, speaking out to the girl, and watching her round her mouth to mimic me. We also got to talk cooking, which was fun, even though that's decidedly less my thing. I am going to the French bakery down the street to get her a profiterole tomorrow, because lord knows I'm not baking one. I love when children's books, tie-in or not, don't talk down to kids, using words or concepts above the pay grade of even your average adult, but without being a big snob about it. Too Many Cooks is totally aimed at kids, with pictures of kaleidoscoping rats and almost goofy rhymes, but with a joy in the foreign and the obscure. Good job.