Twelve-year-old Cici’s life in Taiwan is upended when her parents decide to immigrate to Seattle in this full-color contemporary graphic novel debut. Saying goodbye to her friends is difficult, but leaving her beloved caretaker, cook, and paternal grandmother, A-Má, is much worse. Determined to bring A-Má over to celebrate her 70th birthday, Cici decides to enter Platinum Jr. Chef, a six-round Saturday cooking competition at a local cooking store with a $1,000 prize. Tensions arise as Cici struggles to navigate American-style cooking, new friendships, and her schoolwork, but encouragement from A-Má via video chats (and from Julia Child, via a recommendation from Cici’s favorite librarian) keeps her focused. LaMotte’s accessible writing resonates in sketching a diaspora experience (“When people see us, no matter how American we become, they always see someone who’s not like them. We always have to prove ourselves first”), and Xu’s simple, inviting illustrations will charm young readers. Familiar ingredients—the lunch box moment, disagreements over grades and goals, and cultural alienation scenes—make an appearance, but in LaMotte and Xu’s capable hands, the result is heartwarming fare that will appeal to all. Final art not seen by PW.
Ages 8–12. Author’s agents: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Susan Graham, Einstein Literary. (Oct.)