WINCHESTER – Poor Jill. She hired 10 chefs to work in her Japanese restaurant, only to find that nine of them weren’t quite up to the task.
That’s the premise of “Ten Bumbling Chefs,” a new children’s book by author Kimberli Ball and illustrator Abigail MacKnight, both of Winchester.
“Ten Bumbling Chefs,” which was released Wednesday, takes place on the teppan griddle of a Japanese restaurant, a cooking appliance commonly (and incorrectly) called by most Americans a hibachi grill. Teppan hotplates have solid metal surfaces; hibachi grills have open grates and visible flames.
The story is told using a basic rhyme cadence similar to that used in the classic nursery rhyme “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, making it ideally suited for emerging readers ages 3-7.
“My goal was to try to make it funny… and make it participatory, so we have rhyming and repeating phrases that kids really get involved in,” Ball said.
Here’s an example: “Ten clumsy chefs were cooking on the grill. One dropped his oil and made a big spill. In trampled the boss whose name was Jill. “You have to be careful when cooking on the grill! “
“Ten Bumbling Chefs” is the first book written by Ball, a former teacher who now works as a lawyer, and MacKnight, an emerging artist who works in graphic design.
Ball said she was inspired to write a children’s book by her grandsons, Brayden and Landon, who both attended a launch party Thursday night at Japanese restaurant Okinawa in Winchester.
“Since Brayden and Landon were very little they love to go to the hibachi grill,” Ball told a crowd of around 60 friends, family and supporters. “Then they would go home and play it back with the [onion] volcano and egg toss and shrimp toss. … I dedicated the book to them.
Once Ball had the story, she needed someone to illustrate it. A friend recommended MacKnight, a 23-year-old former Ball’s student who attended Virginia Commonwealth University (she has since graduated in Communication Arts) and dreamed of becoming a professional artist.
“It was great to have this opportunity while he was still in college,” said MacKnight, who also drew the illustrations for a coloring book published by the City of Winchester for its 275th birthday in 2019. .
MacKnight dedicated the book to his parents, Corey and Debbie MacKnight, to thank them for their support.
Ball said his biggest reward for writing “Ten Bumbling Chefs” came a few days ago when his grandsons brought copies of the book to their first and third grade classes.
“They read them in their classes and told them their Nana had written a book,” she said with a smile that spread from ear to ear.
“Ten Bumbling Chefs” is available online at Amazon.com and the book’s publisher, BookBaby.com. Anyone who purchases on the BookBaby site can enter the code “tenbumblingchefs” to benefit from a 25% discount.