Monday, June 10, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Close to Famous

Today’s Pick: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Published by Viking, 2011

From Amazon:

When twelve-year-old Foster and her mother land in the tiny town of Culpepper, they don't know what to expect. But folks quickly warm to the woman with the great voice and the girl who can bake like nobody's business. Soon Foster - who dreams of having her own cooking show one day - lands herself a gig baking for the local coffee shop, and gets herself some much-needed help in overcoming her biggest challenge - learning to read . . . just as Foster and Mama start to feel at ease, their past catches up to them. Thanks to the folks in Culpepper, though Foster and her mama find the strength to put their troubles behind them for good .

My Take:

I just loved this book! Foster has an engaging personality and I liked her right from the beginning. I also had a lot of sympathy for her, because she was in a tough situation. And of course, I loved the idea of her selling her cupcakes and reading about all the different flavours made me want to run and bake. This book touches on some really difficult issues -- literacy, physical and verbal abuse, dealing with death of a loved one -- but the story has an underlying theme that you can get through your difficulties if you persevere. I think it’d be a great book to have in the classroom, because of the careful way it portrays Foster’s reading difficulties.

This book reminded me a little of Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo because of the way the main character interacted with the different people in her neighbourhood, and the way everyone was changed through meeting up with Foster and her cupcakes.

As a writer, I loved the writing style. A lot of the story is told through dialogue, which gave it a fairly quick pace. Backstory is woven in seamlessly. The writing style is spare and direct, with just enough detail to create vivid images in my mind. I read this as an e-book from the library, but I'm going to get my own copy to study more closely and learn about plotting, weaving in backstory and writing dialogue.  

Favourite Quotes:

“I wish somebody could take an X-ray of my heart to show me all I’ve got inside.”

“It’s here in the quiet waiting for a fish that you can fill up for when the tough times come.”

“When you’ve got a big problem, just start somewhere. Do one little thing to make it better. Then do another little thing, and another.”

“Knowing you belong it like putting frosting on a cupcake. It totally seals the deal.”

Opening Line:

“The last place I thought I’d be when this day began is where I am, which is in a car.”

Other Info:

Joan Bauer is married and lives in Brooklyn, New York. When she was growing up, she was always writing stories and poems. In her bio she says: “My best times as a writer are when I'm working on a book and laughing while I'm writing.  Then I know I've got something.”
On her blog she says, “you can't talk about new ideas right away -- they're made of wisps in the beginning and so easily can blow away.”

And she gives this advice to writers: “Write when you feel like it and write when you don't. It's the discipline on the off days that gives power to the on days, and after a while, you're trained to write through the storms and the sunshine.”
Joan did lots of “cupcake research” while working on her book and she has recipes for some of the cupcakes in Close to Famous on her website.

Other Books:
Almost Home

Best Foot Forward

Stand Tall
Hope Was Here

Rules of the Road



For more info, visit Joan Bauer’s website.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the incredible Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!


  1. I loved Because of Winn Dixie, so I bet I'd really like this too. Thanks for reviewing it.

  2. Joan Bauer is a wonderful writer, but I haven't read this one yet. I need to, though...even if the cover makes me famished. :)

  3. Joan Bauer is one of my favorite authors! Been reading her books for a long time and so glad she has some middle grade. Thanks for the review....heading to work with an odd craving for cupcakes, lol!

    1. I think I've only read one other, so I have some searching to do.

  4. Great review. I haven't heard of this one yet, but it sounds like a TBR. Thanks.

  5. I enjoyed this one, too! The voice sucked me in.

    1. Yeah, I loved her little "cooking show" routines!

  6. looks like the voice is killer! and who can pass up cupcakes on the cover, anyway?

    1. Even better, she has some recipes on her author website - yum!

  7. Thanks for sharing this. I haven't seen this before and I like the quotes.


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