Back before Spring Break, I spent three weeks being a literary circle facilitator in my 6th grade son's school. (I wasn't able to volunteer for his class, but ended up in the morning block with 6 girls and 1 boy discussing The Hunger Games. If you want a blow-by-blow account, you can find it on my personal blog, Middle Grade Mafioso.)
I tell you this by way of bringing up the fact that when we got to talking about other books, we invariably meandered to movies, and from there to TV shows. And guess what? All the students were enamored of cooking shows on TV. Think Cake Boss and Chopped.
So, it came as no surprise to read in Publisher's Weekly that there's something of a publishing trend in novels about cooking. As Sally Lodge writes: "Kids’ fascination with celebrity chefs they know from TV cooking programs and with cooking competition shows that pit aspiring chefs against one another – an offshoot of perennially popular reality show contests – and society’s and the media’s current focus on healthy eating and childhood obesity all appear to be helping to shape a new generation of foodies – and feeding a budding publishing trend."
Personally, being quite the foodie myself, I am enjoying the trend. I loved Tara Dairman's All Four Stars and, when the publisher of The Saturday Cooking Club series contacted Project Mayhem for a review, I ate it up. (Pun very intended.)
THE SATURDAY COOKING CLUB: KITCHEN CHAOS (Aladdin, January 2015)
Here's what it's about (from the Simon and Schuster website):
Can their friendships take the heat? A trio of mothers and daughters will find out when they sign up for a cooking class from a famous chef in the first book of the Saturday Cooking Club series—it’s mother-daughter bonding and so much more!
Liza and Frankie have always been best friends. But when new girl Lillian arrives from San Francisco, suddenly three’s a crowd. Especially after the trio is grouped together for a big sixth-grade social studies project—can they put aside their animosity long enough to succeed? When Liza suggests they all take a cooking class with the chef from her favorite cooking show for the project, the girls are on board, but they need an adult to take the class with them. It seems like the perfect opportunity to snag some quality time with their overscheduled, overstressed mothers…if they can convince them to sign up!
Several headaches and close calls later, the girls at last find themselves in Chef Antonio’s kitchen with their mothers in tow—but the drama is only just beginning!
My Take: The co-authors of this novel must have been parked outside a middle school classroom. The voices of the girls, and what they are all interested in, are spot-on. Frankie, especially, comes from a family full of brothers whom she calls The Goons--and her descriptions of them are hilarious. The novel is told in alternating first person chapters, and each one of the voices is distinctive.
There is a ton of diversity. Liza is part African-American and part Jewish; Lillian is Chinese-American; and Frankie is Italian-American. There are the inevitable petty jealousies around friendships, harried adults, a father who's an excellent chef, and a bona fide cooking disaster. The novel is funny, authentic, and just plain enjoyable. Give it a whirl.
About the Authors: Deborah Levine's writing for children, adults, and everyone in between has appeared in books, magazines, and online. She lives, works, eats, and occasionally cooks in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, two kids, and two cats. Twitter
JillEllyn Riley is a writer, editor, and fledgling drummer. She lives in Brooklyn with her family within a few steps of great pasta, pizza, and pastries in all directions.
(You can read an interview with them on the Smack Dab in the Middle blog.)
Best of all, a second book is scheduled for September of this year!
Any other cooking books for kids you like? Drop me a note in the comments.