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Yan on the cover
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‘Turtle Bread’ is a sweet and poignant testament to the power of community

A new graphic novel all about the power of baking, supporting each other, and supporting yourself.

We all have those moments. Those moments where you feel like no one likes you, that you’re weird, a loser, and that you’re not good at anything. But then, we also have those moments where someone sees you, really sees you, and tells you that you’re doing your best and that they’re proud of you. And everything is okay again. That’s one of the core elements of Turtle Bread, a new graphic novel all about the power of baking, supporting each other, and supporting yourself.

Story and Characters

Written by Kim-Joy (Great British Bake-Off, Bake me a Cat), Turtle Bread follows Yan, a young adult with social anxiety who lives in the UK and is trying to put herself out there. After a shaky job interview, Yan discovers the Baking Club, a motley crew of amateur baking enthusiasts comprised of Amit, a father of two with tons of puns to spare; Zara, a scientist with a host of facts about everything ranging from zoology to surfactants; Geraint, a young man who actually works in a bakery; and Bea, the bubbly, old leader to boosts everyone who welcomes Yan. Together, they take on new baking projects, hype one another to take risks, and find healing in their community.

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This is a really charming and relatable read. Yan is a protagonist you root and sympathize for, and her social anxiety was portrayed respectfully and realistically. When you see her stand up for herself and embrace her talents, you cheer. When she starts replaying and overthinking the interactions she had, you want to give her a hug and tell her everything is fine and that she is doing great. The secondary characters are fun as well; we get snippets about their backstories, we learn that Amit is a father who works in the kitchens at a prison, Zara is a first generation Syrian whose family thinks her baking hobby is silly and a waste of time, and Geraint wants to do more in his job than he is allowed to do at his job at the bakery. All of that is lovely, but I wanted more! I understand that if there was an extensive history about each of the supporting characters there would, literally, be too many cooks in the kitchen.

Turtle Bread

The one we learn the most about is Bea. In very heartfelt and gentle scenes towards the end of the book which I won’t spoil, we learn that Bea had a life with lots of heartache and that baking and the Baking Club helps her get through the day and gives her a sense of life again. You learn quickly that Bea is the anchor for them all, the matriarch of sorts that brings everyone together, and with her comforting and kind nature, it makes perfect sense why the others would gravitate towards her.

Art and Visuals

The illustration by Alti Firmansyah (Unstoppable Wasp, Future Foundation) takes on a cute, classic manga style with big eyes and even bigger expressions, complete with dramatic anime tears! The manga style is hammered home even more by the graphic novel being in black and white. While the book is in grayscale, the colors in the cover completed by Yenny Laud (Goliath Girls, Dragon Resurrection) reminded me of a dreamy, shoujo slice of life story that makes you feel warm and cozy inside. It was really lovely to see various body types in the group, ranging from tall and thin to broad and bearded to round and chubby. The body diversity not only added to to the realism of the world, but it was also reassuring to see people of all body types baking; sometimes it feels like things related to baking and desserts is only “valid” when thin people do it, so seeing people that do not fit that mold made me smile. Bea’s design is especially sweet, an older woman whose fashion sense is a cross between a quirky art teacher and Miss Frizzle, the kind of fashion sense where you can tell she gives the best hugs.

Turtle Bread

“Persevering in Spite of it All”

The last time I wrote a review that featured baking, I talked about how I was brought to tears at the way society continues to make things from thousands of years ago. You may be wondering if I was driven to tears again when reading this one. No…I cried after instead of before. There’s a difference. The thing that almost made me blubber over my tablet is the way kindness, care, and support are portrayed throughout. I’ve spoken about the way the group hypes each other up and revels in everyone’s enthusiasm, but there are other ways they show up for their friends. Yan, as stated above, struggles with feeling she is liked and overthinks every interaction, wondering if she is a burden to others. Eventually, she comes to the conclusion that all she – and people in general – wants is to feel helpful and be helped. This resonated with me because, on the days where it feels like nothing is working right or if I don’t feel terribly productive, all that matters is I am trying my best, and I’m trying my best in whatever way “best” looks like that week, day, hour, minute. Turtle Bread demonstrates the power of becoming a better person, little by little, whether that’s a better speaker, a better baker, a better friend, and doing so, perhaps, as a tribute to someone you love.

I am very glad Turtle Bread came in my life, as it reminded me to do several things. One: create, keep creating and never stop; two: forgive yourself, again and again and again; and three: keep going in whatever way that means. The secret fourth reminder is to enjoy baked goods often, but that one wasn’t as profound as the others. These are things that are easy to forget but vital to remember as we go about these uncertain days, and if (when) I forget them again, I will return to these pages and remember to persevere in spite of it all.

Yan on the cover
‘Turtle Bread’ is a sweet and poignant testament to the power of community
Turtle Bread
'Turtle Bread' is a warm, delightful, and tender graphic novel that realistically explores feeling like "enough," finding your own strength, and finding strength from others.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Lovely art style
Sweet and relatable story
Realized supporting characters
Would have liked more fleshed out supporting character backstories

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