rutabagaadventureStep 1: Find a child between the ages of 8 and 11. Step 2: Say “rutabaga.” Step 3: Repeat Step 2 until the child laughs, either because the word “rutabaga” is inherently funny and ridiculous, or because the child is mildly annoyed and doesn’t know how else to get you to stop.

So goes Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Book 2: Feasts of Fury, a comic aimed at early tween readers. The audience will chuckle over the wide-eyed and baby-faced Rutabaga. His portable kitchen is three times his size, and he relies on his sidekick, Pot—an actual pot or an actual magical pot—to kick butt when butts are in need of kicking. Over the course of the story, Rutabaga becomes an unwitting accomplice to a heist, a prisoner of war, and ultimately, has to cook his way out of these slimy situations.

Rutabaga is crafty when it comes to developing sumptuous meals. His signature line is “Let’s get cooking!” and he’ll then give step-by-step instructions for cooking Sunken Treasure Oysters that involve infamously difficult oysters, spinach, and bacon. If you don’t happen to have magical oysters handy, but you’re inspired by Rutabaga’s creations, there are several real-life recipes in the back of the book.

Besides his cooking, Rutabaga’s personality is eclipsed by those of other characters, like Minus, the thief who blows a goodnight kiss to her loot, and Pot, who seems to be able to suffer any amount of damage and overcome any amount of distance separating him and Rutabaga.

Author and artist Eric Colossal has an intuition for what readers will find strange but visually appealing. This world is populated with purple and green pastels, and rather than coming across as Barney-colored, they give this volume an inviting quirkiness. There are other subtle ways in which this comic has built its own visual style: black text appears against a full-color background outlined in white instead of in its own separate box and solid backgrounds are slightly checkered and faded to give the color palette some motion and depth.

I was less thrilled with some plot threads that wandered off track and never returned. These plot threads include Pot defeating a dragon and saving a family of birds, the secret in Amazing Secret Soup, and a traveling band of actors who are followed by bad luck. In transition from web comic to printed volume, I understand why Colossal and editors might want to keep these one-off stories alive, but I wonder whether younger readers will be frustrated by these off-course adventures.

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Book 2: Feasts of Fury
by Eric Colossal
ISBN: 9781419716584
Abrams, 2016

  • Amy Estersohn

    | She/Her Past Reviewer

    Amy Estersohn is a seventh grade English teacher at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, NY and the inheritor of a large classroom library. She has always been struck by the ability of graphic novels to convey a story that transcends written language alone. That story can be for developing readers, such as the time a five-year-old saw her reading Akira on the subway and snuggled next to her, insisting he “read” along, or it can be for proficient readers who want to explore a topic in more emotional depth, such as Don Brown’s depiction of a post-Katrina New Orleans in Drowned City. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

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