Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Midsummer's Mayhem

LaRocca, Rajani. Midsummer's Mayhem
June 4th 2019  June 11th 2019! by Yellow Jacket
ARC provided by the publisher

Mimi loves to bake; it's no surprise, since her father is a food writer and travels all over to describe unusual tastes. When a new bakery, While Away opens in town, she visits them for cupcakes, only to be very disappointed. The treats aren't very good, and the owner, Mrs. T., is a bit odd, as is the waitress, Peaseblossom. There is a competition for young chefs, however, and Mimi starts to think about what to create. In the meantime, she gives her father a chocolate that Mrs. T. has sent home with her, and he starts to act a bit odd, eating everything in sight, running all the time, and losing his ability to describe food as anything but "scrumptious". Mimi has several siblings, who are all have their own interests and activities, so she takes refuge in the woods near her house when she wants a bit of quiet. While there, she meets a boy, Vik, who shares the Indian part of her cultural heritage and also enjoys baking. The two bond over different spices, consult a cookbook that Mimi's finds, and even make honeysuckle cookies. These cookies seem to have an odd effect on her sibling's friends, but Mimi doesn't think too much about it. She is busy with the While Away challenge, working on recipes around the themes of leaves, roots, and flowers. She has a rival in Kiera, who produces very professional looking concoctions, but when the final competition occurs, Kiera's baking isn't all it appears to be. There is a third final entrant, and Mimi tries her best in response to this surprise. I don't want to give away the fantastic ending with the Shakespearean connections, but it is certainly a delicious one!
Strengths: Mimi is a great character, and her obsession with cooking (and attendant near oblivion to its magical affects on others) is spot on. Her friendship with Vik is a nice touch, and again, I can see the average middle school student not questioning found cookbooks, banyan trees in Massachusetts, and children who come out of nowhere. Her Indian cultural background adds an interesting layer to the story (the cupcake based on her mother's favorite pudding was a nice touch), but it's also nice not to have the story be ABOUT her cultural background. The Shakespearean theme runs strongly through the storyline, but it's not necessary to know anything about A Midsummer's Night's Dream or any other Shakespeare. The cooking competition and celebrity chef set this apart from other magical baking titles.
Weaknesses: While the Shakespeare portions of this are well done, I don't ever have students interested in anything to do with that author! Well, I used to have students check out the 20 pound Complete Works so they could look smart carrying it around, but that's about the extent of it. I know some schools are interested in promoting this classic literature, but it hasn't caught on here. Also, I've read a lot of magical baking books, but the target demographic won't have.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase, and am looking forward to whatever else Ms. LaRocca might be writing.

Oddly, I don't think that Ruth Chew had a book about magical baking. A shame! Here are the most memorable:

Dunbar, Fiona. The Truth Cookie (2005!)
Littlewood, Kathryn. Bliss.
Lloyd, Natalie. The Key to Extraordinary.
Meriano, Anna. A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic #1)
Saunders, Kate. The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop (This takes a nicely dark turn!)
Zahler, Diane. Baker's Magic

2012 List of Baking Books
2015 Podcast on Cooking Stories
Goodreads Middle Grade Baking Books List

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