Monday, October 03, 2022

MMGM- Sisterhood of Sleuths and Spooky Snacks and Treats

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Bertman, Jennifer Chambliss. Sisterhood of Sleuths
October 4th 2022 by Christy Ottaviano Books
ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Maizy is in the middle of a school project with her best friend, Izzy. They are making a film called Shellfish Holmes, and hope to have it chosen to be screened at the town art film theater if it's good enough. They even manage to get a giant lobster costume from her mother's costume and vintage clothing store, Alter Ego. When Maizy has an accident in the costume while biking to the park to film with Izzy, her niggling feeling that everything is not okay with her friendship is confirmed. Izzy, who insists on being called Isabelle, is more concerned with working with a couple of boys in class, even though they are not being true to Maizy's artistic vision. About this time, a box of Nancy Drew mysteries is dropped off at the store, and there's a thirty year old picture of Maizy's grandmother, whom she calls Jacuzzi, with two other women. Her grandmother didn't drop off the box, but the mystery of who did draws in neighbor and former friend Nell. Nell loves fashion, and was planning on doing a retrospective of women's clothing in the twentieth century, which their teacher thinks is a bit ambitious for a ten minute presentation. Maizy is thrown in to working with Nell, as well as Cam. The three start to look into the mystery of Maizy's grandmother, but also the history of the Nancy Drew series and its main author, Mildred Wirt Benson. Jacuzzi is not forthcoming with information about the picture, and denies knowing anyone named "Annette" after one of the books is found to have an inscription to that name from "Susie", which is Jacuzzi's real name. With the help of a librarian who isn't a fan of the books, a suspicious college student named Kelsey, and a professor, the girls get a lot of information. Will it be enough to solve the mystery of the box of books and to provide enough interesting facts for a good school project?

This was a fun and brilliantly concieved mystery which seamlessly incorporated the mythos of Nancy Drew in all of her complexity! It's not essential to know this fictional detective in order to enjoy this book, and I'm hoping to get fans of this author's Book Scavenger series to pick up Sisterhood of Sleuths and THEN guide them gently to the Nancy Drew Diaries. Having read Rubini's Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist, I knew a lot of the backstory on Benson and Drew, but also learned a lot. I had no idea that the series had been revamped in the late 1950s, partially to remove racist content. Sadly, while this made the books less horribly racist, those overtones persisted. Fascinating!

Aside from the inherent appeal of the Nancy Drew link, there's a lot of good, solid, middle grade angst going on. Izzy is terrible in the way that friends who are going through hard times are often terrible; it's not that she wants to be mean to Maizy, but Maizy is there. Maizy is also dealing with missing her older brother, who has just gone off to college, and she is worried that her grandmother (who first shows up in the story in an orthopedic book; I feel for you, Jacuzzi!) is getting older and perhaps forgetful. Maizy's parents are supportive, although busy. I wish more middle grade books would include major school projects, because they often loom large in middle school lives. 

I loved Alter Ego and a shopping trip there would be fascinating. The town is small enough that the characters are able to bike around and show some autonomy, which I always enjoy. 

Readers who gobbled up Souders' Coop Knows the Scoop, Johnson's The Parker Inheritance, Bowen's The Soccer Trophy Mystery, and other stories that highlight strange and interesting happenings in the past that must be explored will enjoy this fast paced and funny look at a girl who is just trying to figure out a box of books... and her life!

It's a good time to start getting ready for Halloween!

Williams, Zac. Spooky Snacks and Treats
July 5th 2022 by Gibbs Smith
E ARC provided by the Publisher

I'm a big fan of cookbooks, but my students don't check them out as much as I like. They do like Halloween, however, and this cookbook had a lot of things to recommend it. There are 42 recipes, instead of the ten or so found in something like Tumley's Cool Creepy Food Art (2010), and they are all simple to create, unlike the ones in Farrow's The Official Harry Potter Baking Book (2021) or as I like to call it Impossible Things to Attempt with Bread Dough

Since there are so many recipes, they range from punch (Does anyone serve punch at parties any more? Open bowls of liquid? For the first time, this struck me as the strangest idea.) to snacks to more entree like items, such spaghetti arrranged in a horror themed way. There are several different cupcake ideas, and only one involves fondant. 

The ingredients are all fairly easy to obtain, which also works in this book's favor, and I appreciated that there were some fairly common foods that were given a spooky twist. I think I need to make the Haunted House Lasagna, which is basically a pasta dish with pesto and alfredo sauce instead of marinara. I may pass on the grapes in mayonaisse, which is a bit like my mother's beloved Waldorf Salad. 

There is a clear and helpful photograph with each recipe, which is very helpful when trying to present these dishes. You want to make meat loaf into Brain Loves or turn a pasta dish into Worms and Things Salad, this is the book for you. The only thing that might stop me from buying this is that it is spiral bound, and those don't hold up particularly well in the library. If I were ten and had my own copy of this, I would have wanted to make dinner every night! (But my parents probably wouldn't have wanted to eat it.)


  1. Sisterhood of Sleuths sounds like one I'd like. I just put it on reserve at the library.

  2. Sounds a fun recipe book but probably not for me (I eat pasta too often! :) ) I never read Nancy Drew, but I do remember a tv series running for years. It sounds an interesting story, and I love how the mystery is around the Nany Drew book mystery!

  3. Thanks so much for the insightful review of Sisterhood of Sleuths! It sounds intriguing and the Nancy Drew tie in is a big draw. My daughter, actor Kennedy McMann, actually plays Nancy Drew on the current CW network TV show Nancy Drew so we're big fans :) Thanks for all you do to support middle grade books and authors. We appreciate you so much!

  4. I adored Nancy Drew in the late 50s and early 60s. I lived for the next book to be published -- and I am unaware of the backstory about Drew. This book does intrigue me and I'm sure will be popular! Love your review of spooky snacks and treats -- perfect for the Halloween season! Sounds like a lot of fun and I would have enjoyed this book as a teen!

  5. Great recommends and both were new to me. I will be sure to track down copies for a future read. Thanks for once again featuring your post on MMGM.

  6. Being the middle grade mystery fan I've been all my life, the tie in to Nancy Drew in the Sisterhood of the Sleuths definitely intrigues me.

  7. The Sisterhood of Sleuths sounds so, so good. I'm definitely going to find time to read it. Thanks for the heads up.