You don't have to be an artist in the 1920s to find inspiration in Paris. As Lucy Knisley shows in French Milk, you can be an artist in your 20s, in 2007, and still find the City of Light a moving place. Knisley and her mom rented a Parisian apartment for a month to celebrate their respective birthdays: her mother turned 50, and Knisley turned 22. Knisley, an up-and-coming star in the comics world, kept a trip journal that combines her adorable sketches, evocative photographs and sharp observations of herself, her parents and her temporary home.
If Knisley had merely described the pleasures of Paris, the journal would still be worth reading, thanks to her eye for detail, her exultation in French food and her appreciation of the aesthetic delights of the city. But she goes further, bravely including her own moments of weakness: she gets grumpy with her mother, she feels inexplicably sad and lethargic despite her surroundings. The book, in other words, does what all good travelogues do: it traces the inner journey provoked by an outward one. In the course of her stay—thanks to the city's art museums, over-the-top cookies (including a garlic one that received the "Grossest Cookie" award) and especially the extra-thick unpasteurized milk—Knisley falls for Paris. She also discovers that she's happiest while working, and she arrives back home in Chicago excited to start her graduate-school art program, with a new appreciation for her life and friends.
Her gentle humor and overall enthusiasm are part of what make this book—originally self-published—such a charmer.