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French Milk Paperback – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For her 22nd birthday—and her mother's 50th—Lucy Knisley and her mother went to Paris. For more than a month, they toured the City of Lights from their fifth arrondissement flat, exploring museums and cafes, taking photographs, eating pastries and drinking French milk, which Knisley says is sweeter than its American counterpart; she compares it with the influence we take in from our mothers. Knisley's first book is unquestionably a travel journal first and foremost: Lucy-the-writer is so close to Lucy-the-subject that at times the story lacks background and emotional complexity. But as a travel journal French Milk shines. Knisley's photographs from the trip punctuate sketches of her daily adventures and musings about graduating from art school, first love and having an adult relationship with her mother. Best of all are Knisley's portraits of home at the beginning and end of the book, which capture her childhood home and college life lovingly but with clear eyes. Knisley's cartoony drawings are pleasingly clean in one panel and tellingly detailed in the next. A word-of-mouth hit when it first came out in a self-published limited edition, French Milk will remind readers of their own early trips to Europe and of traveling in their 20s. (Oct.)
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"A keenly observed letter back home...the pleasure Knisley takes in food and company is infectious." -- Douglas Wolk, slate

"Charming." -- Publishers Weekly

"Wonderful....Read it and you will not be disappointed." -- Whitney Matheson, Usa Today

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Revised edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416575340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416575344
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lucy Knisley is an illustrator, comic artist and author. I'll bet you're wondering how to pronounce her name (the K is silent).

Lucy is a graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she went to study painting, and ended up making comics. She then studied at the Center for Cartoon Studies, where she received a scholarship to pursue her MFA (completed in June, 2009).

Beginning with a love for Archie comics, Tintin and Calvin and Hobbes, she has been making comics in some form or another since she could hold a pencil.

She lives in Chicago, where she makes comics, does freelance illustration, and teaches the occasional comics workshop. Check out her blog and web comic essay series on!

Her Books:

French Milk, from Touchstone Publishing, is a drawn journal about living (and eating) in Paris with her mother. (From Touchstone Publishing from Simon and Schuster), August of 2008.

Relish, from First Second Books, is about growing up in the food industry. (First Second Books, April 2013.) It won an Alex Award from the American Librarian Association, was a NYT and Amazon bestseller, and a Goodreads top graphic novel of 2013.

An Age of License and Displacement are paired travelogues about youth and family, coming out this year (Fantagraphics Books, 2014).

She continues to work away on two more graphic novels, and is excited to bring more comics to share with readers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on November 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Glass Castle author Jeannette Walls once told me that memoir should be universal, and I've kept that in mind ever since when I read them. What I think she meant is that while a memoir is specific to the storyteller in the details, anyone should be able to relate to it, somehow. As I read Lucy Knisley's French Milk, I was struck by her storytelling, but also her age, use of photography, and that I could never write such a book, though I too have traveled to Paris with my mother.

The fact that her divorced parents are on good terms, a fact she casually drops in, resonated with me, especially when her father comes to join them for a brief visit during their six-week trip. This would never happen in my divorced family, and it made me, briefly, jealous--again, this goes back to Walls's maxim; my life circumstances may not be the same as Knisley's, but hers caused me to reflect on my own. She also exhibits a particular pride and faith in her work (with the occasional doubts), one that I still struggle with in my early thirties. Her dedication to her art and the creation of this book are apparent. Other moments are brief but powerful, such as going up the Eiffel Tower on a particularly windy day, where Knisley writes, "You could feel the tower move in the wind and see the birds blown off course."

I was torn as to the value of the photographs she included; at first, I thought there was something unfair about it, but then I came upon one of her kissing a wall and realized there was no other way to capture that moment, at least, not so thoroughly. The photos are used sparingly, without comment, filling in gaps in her story, fleshing them out and creating what feels more like an intimate scrapbook than a memoir, albeit an accessible one.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Elaine M. Sargent on October 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
I am very interested in travel, anything French especially Paris as I have not yet been and have always been interested in comics and cartooning so this book was a real treasure to find. I liked the simple style and also the musings on everyday things in life. I felt like I was on this trip with Lucy and her mom. I am planning on using it as a bit of travel guide, for when I finally make my trip, also as a mother/daughter team. I would love to read more books by about one set in NYC - my favorite place in the world!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By BermudaOnion VINE VOICE on December 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
Lucy Knisley and her mother spent January of 2007 in a Paris apartment to celebrate Lucy's mother's 50th birthday (and Lucy's 22nd.) They rented a small apartment in the 5th arrondissement. Lucy had one more semester of college and hoped to go to graduate school for cartooning. While she was in Paris with her mother, she kept a journal and her book, FRENCH MILK is the result of that journal.

FRENCH MILK is a quick read, since it's a graphic travel memoir. It does include photographs as well as drawings, which I found unique. I was hooked as soon as Lucy mentioned Tintin and Milou, since our sweet dog is named after Milou.

We lived in France fifteen years before Lucy's trip, and we never lived in Paris, but this book still brought back lots of memories for me. This book is named after Lucy's love of French milk - she said it came in bottles and was very fresh. I found this interesting, because the only milk we ever saw in France came in a box - it was pretty nasty and most people wouldn't drink it.

This book was a lot of fun and I think anyone who loves Paris or who would love to visit Paris will enjoy it.
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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful By bluwhisper on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
I love memoir, travel writing, and graphic novels, so I thought I'd enjoy this book. The problem, as another review noted, is that there isn't much substance here.

Instead of insightful reflections on her experience, this book briefly recounts Knisley's daily banalities. Not that journals can't be fascinating--graphically, the form was put to good use by Phoebe Glocker in the fictional "Diary of a Teenage Girl." But in "French Milk", the supposedly charming observations about Paris, food, and mother-daughter relationships that the book blurbs promise are either sparse, ham-handed, or shallow. This is the Paris of francophilic tourists--the Eiffel tower, art museums, shopping, food-- and not an illuminating encounter with a complex metropolitan center or its people.

Neither the text, the illustrations, or the photographs work at a sophisticated level themselves, and they don't come together well either, since I found the inclusion of the photographs jarring and distracting.

To do this type of writing well, an author needs to carefully manage the relationship between individual personal experience and the larger significance of it, especially if the story itself is not compelling. And this book doesn't manage to do that. Gabrielle Bell's "Lucky," a chronicle of apartment hunting, low paying jobs, and artistic exploration in Brooklyn is a much better autobiographical piece by a young aspiring cartoonist.

I found myself frustrated with Knisley by the end of the book, both in the triviality of her problems, and for wasting my time on a narrative so unfocused that it was a bit like the misery of being subjected to someone's travel slide show.

Occasionally the book succeeds at being cute-ish and whimsical, but not always, and the tongue-in-cheek moments aren't enough to save the book. If Knisley eventually becomes a famous cartoonist, this will be a curious artifact of her past. But on its own merits, I would give it a pass.
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