Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic by Wauter Mannaert follows Yasmina, an affable girl who loves to cook healthy, nutritious food using vegetables she picks up in a community garden. She uses the veggies to make a delicious dinner for her father, who takes the leftovers for lunch. His co-workers tease him as they like to eat junk food like hamburgers and fries, but he enjoys Yasmina’s food as it is made with love.
The plot thickens as Yasmina encounters two neighbors in a dispute over the community gardens. Some rabbits have invaded the garden and decided to munch on the tasty vegetables. One neighbor wants to use pesticides and the other one doesn’t. Yasmina ends the dispute by devising a clever plan to deter the pesky rabbits, but before they can all rejoice, bulldozers start tearing into the community garden. A man named Le Perre plans to plant potatoes and make potato chips. Losing the community garden has stripped Yasmina of the ability to make food for her family. As a result, it leads her to an unsuspecting discovery, one that may rescue the gardens and her family.
One of the things I found striking about the artwork was the lack of rectangular boxes around scenes. The art was free to take on circular, square, or oval shapes. It was as if the illustrations blended in with the white pages instead of being contained neatly into a box. One scene I liked, in particular, was seeing an entire page full of the apartment building Yasmina and her father reside in. You get a look inside on the other floors and in the individual apartments. I found details like graffiti lining a wall under a highway underpass and contrasted that with the greenery of the gardens. There are bushes, trees, and the green coming from the leaves of the cabbage that pop and catch your eye.
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic is a wonderful story about a girl who cares for her father by making nutritious lunches and dinners for him. Parents and their children will find much to discuss with the story’s themes which center on processed food versus naturally grown food. Also, how to eat healthy when it is so easy and cheap to pick up a bag of potato chips. Yasmina’s creativity and fast thinking will inspire and delight young readers aged 8-12. This is a must-have for libraries wanting to develop their children’s graphic novel collections.
Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic
By Wauter Mannaert
First Second, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)