By Tesha Vann
Illustrated by Anne Attinger
Read Ms. Vann’s interview HERE.
Back Cover: When you put together a determined young star of her cooking show, her secret in gradient and some of the pickiest eaters around, what do you get? A recipe for success!
First Sentence: Just minutes before her cooking show, Chef Kensie finishes getting ready.
Chef Kensie’s television show challenges three picky eaters to not eat Kensie’s food. The three in this story are The Cheese King, who only eats food with cheese in or on it, The Pink Princess, who only likes pink food, and The Green-Eyed Jester—he has green eyes—who has been forced onto the show by his mother. Chef Kensie has decided to make these three picky eaters the one food kids usually will not turn down—pizza. This pizza has broccoli and roasted garlic, not what one would consider a child-pleaser.
The chef begins making her pizza, adding a red sauce, the veggies, and some cheese. Then her secret ingredient pops out of her chef’s hat and zips through the air, spreading the secret zesty spice onto the pizza and the kids. The Cheese King’s growling stomach pleases the chef, who had been near tears afraid of this panel of picky eaters. But then she sneezes and her secret ingredient flies through the air, no longer a secret. The director yells, “CUT!”
Kensie Cooks is a colorfully illustrated book of twenty pages. Ms. Attinger’s bright palette and wide-eyed characters help the reader stay interested in all the action. Chef Kensie is about the same age as her picky eaters, who are six, seven, and eight years of age. She wears a smart looking chef’s jacket and hat. Inside her chef’s hat is the secret ingredient. Kensie’s pet Zesty peers over the hat’s fold during the show, waiting for its fifteen minutes of fame. Zesty—an odd creature—is a pure white happy thing with the arms and head of a frog and the body of a spice shaker. Zesty dusts the food with the secret ingredient by flying through the air.
The book tries to follow the outline of a good book by adding in a conflict that could ruin the entire show, but resolves this as fast as it started, by a mutual agreement not to mention something. I do applaud the attempt to keep the story exciting. I would have loved more interaction between the chef and the “panel.” Still, the author did a good job using only a twenty-page picture book. She uses alliteration affectively and the grammar and punctuation have but one flaw.
For those that like to collect recipes, Chef Kensie’s pizza recipe, which is healthier than a normal cheese pizza, is included. If you like to cook recipes from well-known chefs, you are in luck. The broccoli and roasted garlic pizza Kensie Cooks is from Chef Jay Trubee, the owner of Jillian’s Restaurant in Palm Desert California. The book’s website promises to have other recipes, including the missing salad kabob the three kids also devoured.
Warning: the recipe is not kid friendly, which is what I expect in a children’s book. There is no warning, or a notation, for children to ask for help from an adult or not to make this recipe alone. As for the picky eaters, The Cheese King likes this for obvious reasons, but the other two we never find out why they suddenly have no trouble eating everything in front of them, including a salad. What is it about the garlic that changed these pickiest of picky eaters into eating everything on their plate?
We do not get to know the main character enough to care about her. As example, when the three kids let her know how picky they are, it seemed odd that she had to fight back tears. She was out of sorts because one of the kids did not want on her show, yet I had no sympathy for this character, as I think this was meant to elicit. Why is Kensie this sensitive? Where did she get the odd “frog” Zesty? For the first book in a series, I would have liked to know more about the recurring characters, which for now are Kensie and Zesty. Maybe using an traditional thirty-two page picture book and editing some illustrations or bumping up to the 48 page level would have given this obviously talented writer room to make us care.
I would like to see this series bring in kid friendly recipes that children can make, with or without adult help. I like the idea of a young chef who helps children learn about healthy food and eating. Adding recipes for healthy choices kids can make is healthy icing on the cake. Ms. Vann knows what a good story needs and can write that story. With a little dues paid, Ms. Vann will be an author kids—and health conscious parents—will remember. I’d like to see her Kensie Cooks Series in a conventional 32 page picture book. A few less pages to work with and this story might have had me eating it up.
Read Ms. Vann’s interview HERE.
Tesha Vann, author bookwebsite blog Anne C. Attinger, illustrator website Publisher: Createspace(SP) Trailer ISBN 978-1-47931741-7 Released on October 12, 2012 38 Pages Ages 5 up
Copyright ©2012 by Tesha Vann, used with permission Text: Copyright ©2012 by Tesha Vann Illustrations: copyright © 2012 by Anne C. Attinger