Synopsis from Macmillan Publishers:
Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites is a picture book biography that tells the story of the powerhouse female Japanese-American chef and her rise to fame
As a child and adult, Niki faced many naysayers in her pursuit of haute cuisine. Using the structure of a traditional kaiseki meal, the authors Debbi Michiko Florence and Jamie Michalak playfully detail Niki’s hunger for success in thirteen “bites” — from wonton wrappers she used to make pizza as a kid to yuzu-tomatillo sauce in her own upscale Los Angeles Michelin-starred restaurant, n/naka.
To anyone who tells her a woman can’t be a master chef, Niki lets her food do the talking. And oh, does it talk. Niki was featured on the first season of Netflix’s culinary documentary series Chef’s Table. And Chrissy Teigen proclaimed that Niki’s restaurant was one of her absolute favorites. She’s currently a featured teacher on MasterClass.
A smart, strong woman with starpower, Niki is only just getting started — like the young readers who will devour this book, featuring illustrations by Yuko Jones!
About: Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites is a children’s biography book written by Jamie Michalak and Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Yuko Jones. It was recently published on 9/14/21 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers, hardcover, 40 pages. The genres are picture book, children’s nonfiction, cooking, and biography. This book is intended for readers ages 4 to 8. According to the publisher’s website, “Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, established in 1953, is an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. We are committed to publishing books of the highest literary quality for children and teenagers. FSG BYR is known for its award-winning list of fiction, nonfiction, and picture books.” Please see below for more information about the author and publisher.
My Experience: I started reading Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites for my daughter’s bedtime on 9/13/2021 and we read it again on 9/15/2021. My 9 year old son read it on 9/14/2021. An excellent biography picture book! This story taught my son about Japanese culture, how the family put more hope and attention to the eldest son in the family. It’s actually pretty similar to my Vietnamese background but my son didn’t believe me until he read this book for himself. It’s our first Japanese picture book read and we loved it. We recently visited a sushi restaurant called Osaka Sushi so my son can recall that the chef making our sushi was a man. I didn’t know making sushi was only a man’s job though so it was interesting to learn that in Japan, the skills were meant to pass down from father to son.
This book followed Niki as a young girl having dinner with her family in Los Angeles. Her siblings and her were born in US but her parents were born in Japan. They ate American foods marinaded with Japanese flavors. Niki liked foods since she was a little girl and she got excited every time her grandma invited her to go grocery shopping with her. As she grew older, she announced to her family that she wanted to be a Chef. She went to Japan after she graduated high school to explore different flavors of authentic Japanese foods to gather inspirations. Despite her family’s protests, she continued to pursue her dreams of becoming a Chef. Niki’s restaurant specialized on telling stories through her dishes, specifically 13 dishes for 13 stories. Consequently, customers will be served 13 different dishes at each of their separate visit and they won’t get to eat the same dishes every time. There were two Japanese words used within the story and a detailed explanation was provided for it at the end of the book.
Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites was well written and illustrated. This book was about Niki and being a daughter in a Japanese family, she had to prove herself to be taken seriously. She had to work harder than other men to obtain respect from the Chef at her internship. This book is a good story to inspire girls everywhere. There will always be someone saying they can’t do it but if they focus and work hard, they will be able to achieve anything. Of course success didn’t come immediately because from this story, readers saw that Nikki played it safe by following her mom’s advice first. The illustrations in this story were fantastic. There were multiple opportunities for my toddler to learn from looking through the pictures. The young Niki with straight black hair reminded her of her cousin so it’s no wonder she liked this story a bit more. I recommend everyone to read this book! (After reading this book, I watched 2 video interviews of Niki and her wife Carole on YouTube. I’m amazed that she came out considering Asians are very strict. Niki sure prove she can do anything).
I rate it 5 stars!
About the Authors and Illustrator:
Debbi Michiko Florence is a third generation Japanese American, and the author of the Jasmine Toguchi series and Keep It Together, Keiko Carter (Scholastic). Debbi lives in Connecticut. https://debbimichikoflorence.com/about/ (Photo obtained from the author’s website and info obtained from Macmillan’s website, Book pictures obtained from Edelweiss).
Jamie Michalak is the author of nearly forty books. Her titles include the highly praised JOE AND SPARKY early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz (Candlewick Press); FRANK AND BEAN early reader, illustrated by Bob Kolar (Candlewick Press, 2019); and the forthcoming DAKOTA CRUMB: TINY TREASURE HUNTER, illustrated by Kelly Murphy (Candlewick Press, 2021), NIKI NAKAYAMA, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Kato-Jones (FSG, 2021), and COME ON IN: THERE’S A PARTY IN THIS BOOK, illustrated by Sabine Timm (HarperCollins, 2022). Jamie is also the author of many movie and TV show adaptations.
When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and now resides with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island. https://www.jamiemichalak.com/bio.htm (Photo and info obtained from the author’s website).
Yuko Jones was born and raised in Japan, and spent much of her childhood drawing and painting. After completing her degrees in English, Psychology, and Human Development, she embarked on her career in early childhood developmental research. While working with children, she realized how picture books can play a crucial role in their development, and she wanted to become part of the positive impact.
When she is not illustrating, you will find her testing (and tasting) new baking recipes, savoring short stories and coffee, and practicing yoga. Yuko lives in Western NY with her husband, two sons, a black cat, and two guinea pigs.
Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites (FSG 2021) is her debut illustrated picture book. http://yukojones.com/about.html (Photo and info obtained from the Illustrator’s website).
More Information about Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
***Disclaimer: Many thanks to MacKidsBooks for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.