An Unexpected Book for the Questing 11-Year-Old

Here is a book that makes no sense for a middle schooler, and yet has proved to be irresistible:


I was in Boston visiting my sister, and I finished my book and she had it on her shelves, so I started reading it and…I feel this sounds like I'm explaining some sort of drunken binge. Anyway, one thing led to another. I left it there, but took it out of the library when we got home, and finished it. And that's when Chestnut picked it up.

Chestnut loved it. I mean LOVED it. Was rapt, reading it every spare moment. Asked me, Could we go to the special sushi restaurant she reviews? This, from a child who won't eat fish sticks. "But she makes it sound so good!" is her explanation, and she is right.

It didn't stop there, either. We had Tender at the Bone on the shelves—the first of this series of memoirs. When Chestnut finished that I requested Comfort Me With Apples from the library. Each one she read with that kind of entranced pleasure that is the joy (or envy) of every reader in the world, that moment when you are so swept up in a book that reading it is completely satisfying. It's all you want to do.

For those of you with your own eager 11-year-olds, be warned: Chestnut did ask, upon reading the third book first, then the first second, "Wait, in the other book her husband is Michael, but in this book he's not…," so if divorce is ticklish for you, it might be an issue. Or an excellent way of talking about a tricky subject, who knows?

And no, I have not taken her to the fancy sushi place yet. There are many reasons for this: It was hundreds of dollars in the nineties! I am afraid she won't eat anything! I don't even know if it's still open!

Still, it's pretty cool that a book can take you that far, right up to the gateway of what you've always been afraid of.

6 thoughts on “An Unexpected Book for the Questing 11-Year-Old

  1. My 11-year-old is currently reading Harry Potter…she just finished book 4 and we are on vacation. She FORGOT book 5 at home. Woes me. She is so sad. I will let her know about this series next!


  2. They have not (to my knowledge) read Laurie Colwin, I have, but it was at a strange point in my life and I hated her with a plainly irrational passion. Partly because so many other people loved her so. Now I am afraid to go back to her, because liking her and not liking her both seem fraught.


  3. Awesome. Chestnut is one sophisticated reader–and maybe this will be the critical gateway into haute cuisine. I loved the book about El Bulli–the Apprentice maybe? I cant remember. But I read every page.


  4. @Mom of Boys: are you maybe thinking of Jacques Pepin’s autobio, The Apprentice? We listened to the audio version of it and my (then) elementary school kids loved it–though I did sometimes have to pause and explain things.
    At any rate, I think Chestnut might possibly like that one too. I’m guessing you might not be ready for her to read Bourdain’s drug fueled Kitchen Confidential, though it is good fun from what I recall…


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