The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

I looooooved The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and the Spies of Schilling Lane, so this has been a highly anticipated book for me–WWII, Jennifer Ryan, and COOOKING?! Sign me up. This was just a wonderful weekend treat of a book.  As with her others there are many well researched details about village life during the war. Despite the black market, this felt overall “lighter” than the other two titles. There are 4 contestants in this cooking contest, each woman is a terrific cook, and each has her own story. Chapters alternate viewpoints. Differences in class are fascinating. Nell is a girl working in the kitchen of a manor house, Gwen is the Lady of the manor and a total snobby gold digging B&*( who has turned her back on her sister, Audrey. Audrey is a widow with three children who married for love and is not struggling to keep it all together and likely to lose her house. The outlier is Zelda, a glamorous Londoner with a scandalous secret. Each of these ladies has her reasons for wanting to win this competition.  I really appreciated just how much cooking was talked about and how central it was to the story, along with the inclusion of many many recipes. And the recipes did not disappoint with their weirdness (whale steak) as the women had to make do with rations and ingenuity. (Sidebar: I follow a British lady on IG who routinely cooks and bakes from WWII recipe pamphlets. It sounds like a really challenging time to live in and I don’t think I would look to recreate those challenges and hardships.)
Was this a bit sentimental and blatantly a heartwarming story of women and friendship? Yes it was and I loved it.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte

Terrific new graphic novel! I ordered it for the library and took the liberty of quickly reading it before putting it out. CiCi moves to Seattle from Taiwan and experiences the usual adjustments, with the added worries of really missing her grandmother, with whom she is very close. They keep in touch with video chats, but it just isn’t the same. CiCi really wants her grandmother to visit and is determined to win prize $$$ that she can use to help pay for a visit. She enters a cooking contest that is kind of like Masterchef Junior. There was so much in here to like–the cooking competition, the contestants recipes, Cici experiencing microaggressions, Cici trying to keep her “Taiwanese life” separate from her new American friends, and finding out the ways they are the same. I think this will be highly appealing to lots of kids. Would gladly read more about Cici and/or more kids learning about Julia Child!

Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

I gave this the category “Recipes Included” but the truth is, to my tremendous disappointment, there are not actual recipes in here. But enough food and menu descriptions to warrant the category anyway.

I’ll preface this by saying that I love vintage cookbooks and especially enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s grandmother (?)’s book At Home on the Range. And, I keep my very own menu journal, listing all the menus and notes about them, for special occasions.

So here we have Kate, about to turn 40, with a wonderful boyfriend, who suddenly “has a wobble” and isn’t so sure about them. Kate is despondent and gives him a couple months to get his act together. During this time she begins volunteering at an elderly ladies’ nursing home and strikes up a friendship of sorts with Cecily. Only “of sorts” because Cecily is crotchety and mean to her. But somehow Kate keeps coming back. In part because Cecily is a smart and interesting lady who had a fascinating life. She is quick to tell Kate what she’s doing wrong with her life though. Cecily’s book collection is enormous, including cookbooks. She lends Kate a vintage book called Thought for Food, which includes fascinating and wonderful menus that are often very funny since each includes the true “aim” of the meal. Kate loves to cook and eat and begins to make some of these things.

I want to read Thought for Food! Where is this book?
I really enjoyed this whole heartedly.

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

I quite enjoyed this but simply cannot believe that in the past week I read three children’s books in a row and they all featured grandfathers with Alzheimer’s disease!

Ellie is a middle schooler with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She really doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t especially like school. When her mom decides they will extend their visit to her parents (in Oklahoma) to the whole spring semester it means a lot of changes for Ellie. Starting a new school stinks and living in a trailer with her grandparents isn’t great simply because it is not outfitted as well as her house at home. But on the other hand, she makes actual friends, which is awesome.
What I especially liked about the story was that Ellie loves to bake and references cooks I like and talks about what she makes. I just realized I added the new category “recipes included” but in fact, no actual recipes are included. Oh well. Close enough.

Ellie is sad about her grandfather, but I wouldn’t say that is the absolutely main plot point. I look forward to recommending this to students in the fall.