This month marks the print comic book debut of The Great British Bake-Off star Kim-Joy with the graphic novel Turtle Bread. On her way home from another unsuccessful job interview, Yan stumbles upon Baking Club. Her social anxiety tries to keep her away, but the bakers encourage her to come out of her shell, especially the caring and supportive Bea. As the club bakes together, Yan discovers that her new friends may need her too, more than she realises…
Originally released as a ComiXology original, this is the first time this graphic novel sees print and is a great opportunity for Kim-Joy’s hometown fans to see her debut comic work. Appearing as a contestant on the hit TV show The Great British Bake-Off in 2018, Kim Joy became a favourite amongst viewers for her intricate bakes that featured fantasy influenced designs including iced woodland creatures, space turtles and many other charming creations. She made it to the finals and has retained a strong following for both her baking and work within the mental health field. Turtle Bread – her first time writing a comic – explores both these areas.
This is a comic that many readers will find something to emphasise with as Kim-Joy draws on both her experience working in mental health and baking to create a very relatable scenario. Yan is a woman plagued by social anxiety – on top of struggling to find a job – who uses baking to help her open up to others. It is a familiar situation that many people experienced during the pandemic which is still fresh in people’s minds. We see Yan’s struggles at finding the courage to continue going to the Baking Club as even the act of going through the door causes here deep levels of stress. Kim-Joy’s knowledge of the subject not only taps into the anxiety itself, but also the means to cope with it as demonstrated by Yan’s use of a thought diary to record her social interactions and her emotional response to them. It’s a very real account whilst remaining uplifting at the same time.
Art is handled by Alti Firmansyah whose manga influenced style is an excellent fit for Kim-Joy’s sensibilities. This is an inherently hopeful story with a lot of uplifting moments, but Firmansyah doesn’t slack when it comes to presenting the more emotionally heavy parts of the story. Her expressive characters and skill at expressing emotion goes a long way in establishing both the tone and message of the comic.
This is a strong debut that will appeal to a variety of people. It’s an easy recommendation to fans of Kim-Joy, Bake-Off and Baking in general; but it is also an uplifting read that examines mental health in a sensitive fashion. It will draw in both those working in the sector and those who are struggling with mental health themselves.
Turtle Bread is out 24 October from Dark Horse (9781506730981, p/b, £17.99)
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