Monday, October 25, 2021

MMGM- A Batch Made in Heaven

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Nelson, Suzanne. A Batch Made in Heaven
October 19th 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Mina is super excited that her middle school has teamed up with local businesses to provide internships for 7th grade students, and is thrilled when she gets her first choice of A Batch Made in Heaven, a gourmet cookie bakery. Her friend Kalli is excited to work at the Oyster Cove Historical Society and plans on to work with them on providing more information on the Chinook and Samish peoples, since she has that heritage. Mina is a bit worried when Flynn Winston, the very cute 8th grade son of the owner, is not happy to have her in the shop, and it's even more disappointing when it doesn't look like she will be allowed in the kitchen. Hughie, who is in charge of her, wants her to post for the shop on social media and work at the counter instead. Things are a bit rough at home as well. Both of her parents are overwhelmed by her twin infant siblings, Amul and Banita. Her parents moved to Washington state from Dehli, India so her mother could go to graduate school, and her father had to give up his restaurant. He and Mina used to bond over cooking, but things have been so busy that Mina spends her time doing chores instead. After a rocky start at the shop, she and Flynn start to get along, and Mina finds out some secrets about the genesis of many of the recipes. Once she knows this, Flynn allows her more access to the kitchen, which is a big help when she wants to enter a cookie competition. There is a big shopping spree as a prize, and Mina hopes that her family could use this if her father finally buys a restaurant that is up for sale in town. Instead, when she makes the cut for the competition and needs to go to Seattle to compete, her parents say it is out of the question because things are so hectic at home. Mina forges her mom's name and take a bus to participate. At the same time, the secrets of the cookie shop hit the news, and Flynn blames Mina. Will Mina be able to sort out the various problems in her life?
Strengths: The whole series of WISH books are very popular in my library, and the combination of food, friend drama, and middle school romance is hugely appealing. Unlike YA romance, which is fraught with all manner of problems, many about the romance itself, middle grade romance usually includes one misunderstanding, and then a few sweet, tentative kisses and handholding. So much more pleasant! I also enjoyed the fact that Kalli has to give a presentation at the museum, and needs Mina's help, and there is a bit of friend drama as well. The family drama is very realistic, and while Mina's parents make a few mistakes and demand a lot of her, they do see that they were a bit unfair. It's great to see parents depicted as hardworking, caring, and still occasionally misguided! Flynn has a complicated backstory but treats Mina well eventually, and my favorite part was probably the ending. Recipes are included, but they are beyond my level of baking skills. I have a friend who might be able to make them for me. 
Weaknesses: Are there really 7th graders who bake this well? I have my doubts. I'm also a bit conflicted about the fact that Kalli is Native American and Mina's family is Indian. When the first WISH novel came out in 2013, having characters with a cultural background like this would have been perfect. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement started in 2014, and by 2020, there was a lot of concern about what used to be the #OwnVoices writers. I'm fine with this, and think that having a variety of characters depicted is good, even if it's a superficial treatment. Would I be glad if Scholastic ALSO had writers with cultural connections publish similar novels? Absolutely. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and my readers will be avidly awaiting this one. 

Atherton, David. Bake, Make & Learn to Cook
November 2nd 2021 by Big Picture Press (Candlewick)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

I love cookbooks. I hate to cook, but I love reading about cooking. There are so many fun cookbooks for children, but my students aren't all that interested in them. Luckily, I have several students who are checking out lots of my books, so this is a good purchase, and I don't even need to justify it.

One of the things that I enjoy about cookbooks is what a great snapshot of social history and popular culture they are. The illustrations in this are so completely 2021 that they made me very happy. A vague 60s vibe with a more gently colored palette, lots of white space, and very readable font. The recipes were kid friendly but also updated-- there are more vegetarian dishes, like the hummus lion below, and a spicy sweet potato dip/spread that I definitely want to try. 

Even though this had a decided British feel to it (even I have never thought to serve tomato soup from a teapot, although I have several I could use), the measurements are in cups rather than grams, which made me happy. 

I'm not sure how many middle school students watch the Great British Baking Show, but think this will be a big hit even without that connection. 


  1. I love that you have two different cooking-related books for today's post! A Batch Made in Heaven sounds like a fun read, and I love your comments on MG romance vs. YA romance. And I get your point about the representation—it generally never hurts to have some superficial representation that at least normalizes things, but publishers ALSO need to be introducing #ownvoices representation through other books. Bake, Make, and Learn to Cook sounds fun too—the illustrations look lovely! Thanks so much for the great reviews! (Also, I think your post didn't go up on the #IMWAYR roundup, just FYI.)

  2. There sure are a lot of food-related MG novels... but I remember my kids loved watching "iron chef" type shows - and baking cookies and brownies with me. This looks like a sweet story in so many ways. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. These both sound great for very different reasons. A Batch Made in Heaven -- love the title -- sounds pretty adventurous and fun. The second simply because cooking is such a good skill to learn at that age, and kids love to learn new things. Thanks for the heads up on these.

  4. I've put this on order at my library. I've got an 18-yr. old friend who's making a plan to move out, ( So smart!) so I thought of giving it to him as a house warming gift.

  5. Adding Bake, Make & Learn to Cook to my TBR list and hoping we'll be able to get a local copy. Suddenly feeling the need to start labeling/shelving my MGlit books that include loads of baking/cooking. Thanks for the great reviews, Karen!