Sunday, May 23, 2021

Who She is and Alice Fleck's Recipe for Disaster

Byington, Diane. Who She Is 
March 20th 2018 by Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Loaned to me by Mikayla H.

Faye's family has always moved around a lot, and the latest stop is Florida, where her father works in an orange grove. They've got a nice house, and Faye even makes a friend at school, even though she usually tries to avoid making any attachments. Francie is one of the few girls in the school who is out on the track running-- it's 1967, and everyone knows that girls can't run, lest grave physical repercussions occur. Fortunately, this has just been disproven-- Kathrine Switzer finished the Boston Marathon earlier in the year, and Francie, whose mother is rather progressive and a teacher at the local high school the girls attend, is determined to register and run the race as well. Francie is slow, but Faye seems to have some talent. The problem is that Faye has suffered from epilepsy for years, and her parents are really reluctant to let her run. She defies them, bringing her to the attention of the local news when she joins the cross country team as the only girl. At first, the coach is okay with her running, but the atmosphere is not conducive to equal opportunity sports quite yet, and Faye experiences a number of set backs. Not only that, but she has horrible nightmares about car crashes that bring up memories that make her wonder about her parents and her epilespy. When Francie and Faye decide to travel to Boston to run the marathon, things don't go smoothly, but Faye does find out more about her family's past secrets, and new opportunities open for her. 
Strengths: This is a great combination of history, mystery, and sports! The writing reminded me a tiny bit of Cooney's Before She Was Helen, but is definitely middle grade appropriate. Faye is an intriguing character whose life has not been easy. Not only is her family struggling economically, their frequent moves are caused by the father's indiscretions and general bad behavior. While Faye would really like to go to college, the expectation is that she will finish school and go to work in the fields with the parents. Francie and her mother provide a glimpse of another life, and are instrumental in helping Faye make it to Boston. The historical details about what life was like at this period of great social change will surprise many young readers. I really appreciated the happy ending! 
Weaknesses: Don't want to spoil the mystery, but we never find out why Faye has epileptic-type symptoms, although the medication she has been taking and the reason she has been told she had epilepsy are explained. 
What I really think: I would definitely purchase this for the library if it were available in a prebind, and I'm half tempted to buy the paperback myself and donate it. There are SO MANY stories of girls and women wanting to participate in sports in the 1960s and 70s that could be written. 

Reading about this time period always makes me a bit sad. I started running in about 1977, but every time I went out, my mother would be very dismissive about it. "Why would you do that?" It's easy to forget how different the world was when I was in middle school. 

Delaney, Rachelle. Alice Fleck's Recipe for Disaster
May 11th 2021 by Puffin Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Alice and her father have a cozy life in their town home near campus, where he is a professor of culinary history. The two often cook together from vintage recipes, and Alice doesn't really miss her archaeologist mother who was not up to the task of raising her. She's not thrilled that her father is dating Hana, another historian, even though Hana is a lot of fun. When Hana submits a tape of Alice and her father to a cooking competition, Culinary Chronicles, and they are accepted to a competition being held during a Victorian celebration at Gladstone Manor, Alice doesn't really want to be on camera, but agrees in order to make her father happy. Soon the three are off to the country to cook up a storm and enjoy the celebration. When they arrive, however, they find that Alice's favorite host won't be there and will be replaced by the polemic Tom Truffleman, who renames the show Culinary Combat and regularly insults competitors, especially Alice, since he doesn't think that children can cook. Alice and her father have solid cooking skills, but there is clear sabotage going on. With the help of other children who are there with their families, Alice manages to not only survive the competition but also help to solve the mystery of the sabotage. She also learns to make some peace with enlarging her family to include Hana. 
Strengths: This was a very fun book that included all manner of interesting information about Victorian cooking and life, set in an elaborate country house. It felt a little bit like the Agatha Raisin books for adults by M.C. Beaton. The fact that Hana was behind the whole event made it a great time for Alice to reevaluate how she felt about her father moving on with his life, and I appreciated that Hana was a very fun character. The other children made this more fun for Alice, and the mystery was a bit of a welcome surprise. 
Weaknesses: I was absolutely sure there was going to be a murder, so was little disappointed that the only mystery was the sabotage. The situation with Alice's mother didn't seem very realistic.
What I really think: I was glad to see that this Canadian title is available through Follett Library and will definitely be purchasing for my readers who love cooking oriented books! Also, I really wish I could have been a culinary historian! I don't like to cook, but I love reading vintage cook books.

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