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I couldn’t resist this combination, so I am offering two reviews today.
Beginning with our first cooking title, which has a great cover — is there anything teens love more than cupcakes? (Having survived a literary club student bake sale last week, I can confidently say there is not.)
Then continuing with a mysterious and haunting novel about a girl who can taste emotions in food. I added this book to our library collection at the beginning of the school year, and the first student checked it out before I had a chance to recommend it. (It was on display so I assume the cover attracted attention.) Since then word of mouth has kept it moving; at least two different readers passed it directly to friends.
I find this interesting because Lemon Cake is particularly hard to pigeonhole or describe. I re-read it as soon as I finished the first time, and decided that each reader would need to interpret events for him or herself. One student asked to discuss it a couple weeks ago; she wanted me to tell her what happened to Rose’s brother. Eventually we agreed that we couldn’t know exactly (the student had some very interesting ideas of her own), but that we really like the book anyway. How often can you say that??
Adult/High School–Divvies, a New York bakery, was created as a labor of love for the author’s son who was born with severe food allergies. Hating the idea that her son, or any child, was excluded when it came to eating treats, Sandler experimented for years to come up with baked goods that are peanut, tree-nut, dairy, and egg free. Her approach is cheerful and positive, for as she says, two ingredients can be found in all the recipes–“a pound of patience and a heaping helping of humor.” The book begins with a listing of necessary ingredients for the pantry, the refrigerator, and the freezer. Also included are a list of equipment and some “baking basics.” Recipes are divided into four sections that focus on times when food plays an important role, including “Sweets That Make the Schoolhouse Rock” and “It’s Your Party!” Some ingredients used are dairy-free margarine, soy milk, and silken tofu. The Divvies Famous Chocolate Cupcakes (as seen on the Martha Stewart show) include vinegar, which is an egg substitute and which makes for a moist and tasty cupcake. Recipes are easy to follow. There are only eight pages of photos which seems a bit slight. Purchase where cookbooks are in demand.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA
Adult/High School–Rose is about to turn nine when she tastes her mother’s feelings in a practice birthday cake, a hollow, lonely, needy unhappiness. From then on, she tastes feelings in everything she eats, and even learns to sift through each ingredient until she can tell where it comes from and whether it is organic. At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story about a girl who must learn to cope with her unusual ability alone, knowing that she will never get any help from her self-absorbed family. The mother is hiding an affair. The father is mostly absent. The brilliant older brother is withdrawn. It’s hardly surprising that she develops a crush on her brother’s best friend, the only one who pays her much attention. The strangeness of the abilities (for Rose is hardly the only one in her family who suffers from one) will keep curious teens invested, but this is not a fast read. The story is intriguing, well plotted, and anchored in Los Angeles, just south of Sunset. Like all good coming of age tales, this one leaves readers hoping that the protagonist will find a way to use her unique talent in a meaningful way. As such, Lemon Cake satisfies, but it leaves a lingering taste of emptiness and nostalgia in its wake. Not all of its questions are answered, and readers will find themselves thinking about the book long after finishing it.–Angela Carstensen, Convent of the Sacred Heart, New York City
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About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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