If you’re itching for some fabulous children’s fiction/middle grade reads, then I have some picks for you here! I had the pleasure of reading, thanks to the kind folks at Penguin Random House Canada, Rachelle Delaney’s Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster. I also had the delight of reading a number of truly excellent children’s fiction titles back-to-back (to back) in the last few months- which I will highlight below. Happy reading to you all!
“Hang on a minute,” she said, trying to keep her voice even. “Let me get this straight. We’re going to be on Culinary Chronicles, which is being filmed in a few weeks at a Victorian festival?”
You might recognize Canadian author Rachelle Delaney from delightful books such Clara Voyant or The Bonaventure Adventures. In the author’s latest book, Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster, Delaney turns to the world of culinary competition and reality television- with a few twists and turns. Twelve-year-old Alice Fleck and her father love to cook together, but what is unique about their kitchen adventures is that they love to experiment with historical dishes. Alice’s father James is a “culinary historian” at the local university, and he and Alice love to spend time together researching, cooking, baking, and watching their favourite niche reality television show, Culinary Chronicles, “quite possibly the friendliest cooking competition on TV”. One night, however, James’s girlfriend Hana Holmes (a professor who studies the Victorian era) unwittingly kiboshes their croquembouche plans, and announces that she has entered James and Alice to compete on Culinary Chronicles. To be filmed during a Victorian festival. In a few weeks time. Alice is dismayed and frustrated with Hana, who she already feels prickly towards, given how protective she is of her father. Not only does she absolutely not want to be on television, but she doesn’t want any classmates in her new middle school to find out about her very particular interests. Alice has been made fun of before by classmates, and she just wants to start middle school on a fresh note. However, Alice and James, together with Hana (who is presenting at the festival), do end up making it to the festival- held at a grand place called Gladstone Manor- and are terrified when they find out that television producers have played them dirty. Culinary Chronicles is out and Culinary Combat is in: new hosts, new format, new reality TV network to broadcast the show. As Alice and her father both struggle to come to terms with all of these new unwelcome reveals, Alice also finds herself involved in a mystery of sorts. New friends Henry Oh and Octavia ‘Tavi’ Sapphire- who are attending the festival with Tavi’s parents- begin to investigate suspicious activity around the filming of Culinary Combat when kitchen ‘incidents’ begin happening. As more Culinary Combat contestants get cut, temperamental host Tom Truffleman’s antipathy towards Alice increases, and an accident happens with Hana, it seems like Alice’s once-tightly-knit-world might just fall apart. With fascinating dives into recipes and culinary histories, light comedic touches, a fun and not-too-diabolical mystery, kind and cool supporting characters, and an intriguing dive into what happened to Alice’s birth mother, Rachelle Delaney has another great title here. With its delicious blend of light suspense/detective work, The Great Canadian Baking Show, and a dash of MasterChef Junior, all in a fun and quick-moving contemporary read, Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster is terrifically fun and engaging reading. Reader who have enjoyed titles by authors such as Rajani LaRocca, Mahtab Narsimham, Susin Nielsen, Jennifer L. Holm, or Jessica Kim, or for readers who like to dabble in foodie or mystery fare, this is a perfect pick.
Now let’s take a look at some more wonderful children’s fiction I have had the pleasure of reading. All titles I one’s I would absolutely recommend! Here is the list of titles and their respective authors in no particular order: a standout of a contemporary middle grade read (with mystery at its core) called The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus; Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #1) and How to Get Away with Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries #2) by Elizabeth C. Bunce, a most excellent (and now 2021 Edgar Award-winning!) historical mystery series; the gorgeously written Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by multi-award-winner author Rita Williams-Garcia; and last but not least, the deeply captivating and heartfelt Many Points of Me by Caroline Gertler.
I received a copy of Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own. All titles mentioned have been published and are currently available.