From Publishers Weekly
In an ambitious and successful authorial debut, Arnold (Fanny at Chez Panisse) further explores the culinary arts this time through biography. Her brilliant but little-known subject, Frenchman Alexis Soyer (1809-1858), rose quickly from child prankster to lowly apprentice to chef de cuisine at London's new Reform Club. There he helped to design a kitchen so innovative that it became a tourist attraction. In clever shorthand, Arnold provides a fascinating cutaway drawing of the kitchen that also reveals the toilsome process of 19th-century cooking. Soyer went on to invent labor-saving cooking devices and methods to help feed large numbers of Britain's impoverished as well as its soldiers. Arnold artfully weaves delicate, lively pen-and-watercolor spot illustrations in and out of the text to convey a substantial amount of historical information. For instance, she uses before-and-after vignettes to convey Soyer's contributions to military cooking ("Before Soyer: The meat was lashed tightly in bundles. The outer parts were boiled to shreds; the inner parts remained raw. After Soyer: Soyer had the joints of meat hung separately so that they could cook evenly and be ready at the same time"). Captions curve and flow between the scenes, moving the eye forward. Aspiring historians, budding chefs and gourmet parents will devour every scrap of information about this remarkable man. Ages 5-8.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5-An engaging picture-book biography of a 19th-century chef/inventor/cookbook author. At the suggestion of his brother, the "head cook in an aristocratic English household," Soyer moved from France to England when he was in his 20s and worked for noblemen. He went on to establish a soup kitchen in Ireland during the potato famine and worked with Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, when he improved hospital kitchens in Scutari, Turkey. The writing is simple and straightforward, with touches of wry humor throughout, and the graceful watercolors add mood, detail, and a sense of time and place. This story of a remarkable life set in remarkable times does a wonderful job of bringing the past to life.Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.