Chef Yasmina and the Potato Panic by Wauter Mannaert had a lot of potential. It started with the cover (I know do not judge a book by its cover, but I was hoping this would be a fun romp about cooking, friendship and for some odd reason, a mystery). However, I never completely found it in the actual story. I was weary at first as they first few pages had no text. Which is okay for some things, like a picture book. But when you have to explain the who, what, when, where, why and how of a story, you need a few words.
When it did finally show up, the text fell flat. There was a cliched plot, and the characters felt not as fleshed out as well as they could have. Who was Yasmina? Her father? Her neighbor? Why are there little to no children around? To top it off, the villain was a bit stereotypical. And on top of that, there were two scenes that were a bit violent compared to the rest of the book. The two scenes that have Yasmina in danger and the ending of the villain felt out of the blue.
However, the illustrations were fun, quirky, and told a lot of the story. At first the minimalism of the was not pleasant, but once you got into them you realized they were not as “empty” as they might seem. There is a lot going on. The colors are not “rich or deep” but they did not feel as faded as they did at first. This is a book where each reader (mostly aimed at 10 to 14, but younger can read as I am sure they have seen worse in cartoons) will take away what they bring to it, and that will not be the same for each reader.
There is an author afterwards that shows some of the progression of the art and more of the inspiration to the story itself. And when I learned the author/illustrator was from Belgium a few of the quirks I was finding finally fit, due to the cultural difference I am used to. There is also a bit about Belgium as well.