Thursday, December 01, 2011

Food, in one way or another

McClain, Lee. Sizzle.
Linda has a good life with her Aunt Elba, who runs a small diner in Arizona, but her aunt's health is bad enough to send Linda off to live with her Aunt Pat in Pittsburgh. Pat also cooking, but instead of the flavorful, fresh Mexican food that Linda likes to cook, Pat favors carb-heavy casseroles from cans, recipes for which she shares on her local cooking show, Cooking From Cans. This is in part because there are a lot of children in the family, including foster child Angel, who is having a hard time but takes to Linda because of their shared cultural heritage. Linda misses Arizona and cooking, and tries to "help" Pat out by teaching her that Linda's way of cooking is better, which imperils the show, which is a much needed source of income. She also needs to learn to get along with the other girls in the family, even though she has a crush on the same boy that one of her new sisters does.
Strengths: Very nice treatment of fitting in at school and with a new family, good cooking details, and a sweet budding romance. This is definitely one to add to the list of middle grade cooking novels!
Weaknesses: What happened to Linda's parents is never addressed and I kept waiting for it. Also, there is a web site listed for Pat's show, but it doesn't really exist. For some reason, this irks me, because some books do have real web sites.

Kent, Trilby. Stones for My Father
Nominated for the Cybils by Ivette deBruyn

Corlie's life on a South African farm in the early 1900s is difficult not only because her father has passed away, but because of the fighting between the Khakis (the British) and the Boers. The British frequently find small farm communities and burn them to the ground if they suspect that they are aiding the other side. This happens to Corlie's family, so they set off with a family of friends who are African to find a larger community of people banding together trying to survive. Food is especially scarce. This group is unwilling to take in the African family, fearing that they are on the side of the British, but Corlie's family is able to survive until the British come and force them all into a refugee camp. Things go from bad to worse, with Corlie's brother becoming ill and her mother refusing to care for her any longer. Luckily, a Canadian soldier who knows her helps Corlie get medical treatment and arrange for her care.
Strengths: This is a period of time about which I knew little, and was a harrowing tale of survival under military turmoil.
Weaknesses: This would have been easier to understand if it had started with a preface that included a brief overview of the historical situation, and a list of foreign phrases. Also, this is a small book with a young girl on the cover, but is really more suited for older readers due to violence and situations such as Corlie almost being molested by an old man and the fact that her father was really a British soldier and that's why her mother disliked her.

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