Monday, February 27, 2023

ALICE FLECK’S RECIPES FOR DISASTER by Rachelle Delaney - a cooking-related middle grade mystery with lots of surprises

Red-headed girl looking doubtful surrounded by baking tools and a cake

Why this book?

I’m a big fan of books that involve kids cooking and especially books with cooking competitions! I was hooked right from the beginning, since Alice didn’t want to be part of a Victorian-themed cooking show (what would her friends think?) Even worse, she was entered in this contest by her dad’s new girlfriend Hana, without being asked first. Lucky for us readers, Alice agrees to participate and we get to read about Alice and her historian dad working together to bake in the contest. There are even more plot twists when her favourite "Culinary Chronicles" cooking show is renamed "Culinary Combat" with a whole new approach. And then it becomes clear that someone is sabotaging the contestants! Alice meets some sweet new friends and they work together to solve the mystery of the saboteur, while she comes to terms with her dad’s new relationship, and discovers how to be herself.  

Jacket Art: Morgan Goble

Connections: reality shows, mysteries, cooking, friendships

Activity Ideas:

Literacy – Create your own “mystery” by choosing a popular recipe and inventing clues to reveal 4 or 5 of the ingredients. Can your friends guess your recipe?

Literacy/Drama – Design and film a commercial for “Culinary Combat” or another reality show you think would be interesting.

Art: Use your imagination and art materials to create your own version of “Peacock Pie.”


A bookformercial for the book by Tundra Books: 


Additional Resources:

Rachelle Delaney, the author, has lots of resources with her research materials on her website HERE.

A book club discussion guide from Kawartha Lakes Library can be found here.

Other cooking-related books students might enjoy:

The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz 

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

Eliza Bing is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter by Carmella Van Vleet

Description from the publisher:   

Alice Fleck's father is a culinary historian, and for as long as she can remember, she's been helping him recreate meals from the past — a hobby she prefers to keep secret from kids her age. But when her father's new girlfriend enters them into a cooking competition at a Victorian festival, Alice finds herself and her hobby thrust into the spotlight.
     And that's just the first of many surprises awaiting her. On arriving at the festival, Alice learns that she and her father are actually contestants on Culinary Combat, a new reality TV show hosted by Tom Truffleman, the most famous and fierce judge on TV! And to make matters worse, she begins to suspect that someone is at work behind the scenes, sabotaging the competition.
     It's up to Alice, with the help of a few new friends, to find the saboteur before the entire competition is ruined, all the while tackling some of the hardest cooking challenges of her life . . . for the whole world to see.

Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster by Rachelle Delaney was published by Tundra Books/Puffin Canada in 2021. Visit the publisher’s page to listen to an audio clip of the e-book version here.


To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.

Friday, February 17, 2023

A Library by Nikki Giovanni & Erin K. Robinson

black girl hugging an armful of books with beautiful colours in the background

Why this book?

I found this book at my local library before kindergarten class went on a visit there. This book gave a lovely introduction to how books can excite your imagination! I’ll definitely be looking for more of Nikki Giovanni’s work to read for myself. The illustrations in this book were full of texture—and could inspire kids to create interesting art of their own.

My thoughts as a creator:

This is a good example of a book with sparse text –sometimes just a few words on the page to spark thoughts or imagination.

My thoughts as an educator:

This book contains lots of interesting vocabulary (some words, such as “cautious” needed explaining to my kindergarten students). I liked the way this book showed going to the library as part of everyday life. Children could reflect on the ending line and think about how they feel or act differently in different places.

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K - 3

Connections: libraries, reading, imagination 


Dramatic Play:  Provide bins of books, small book bags and paper to make pretend library cards or books and encourage children to “play library.” Add things to their experience as needed. For example, an old keyboard where they can “check in” books.

Literacy: Draw a picture of a library you have visited. Or design your own library—where would you keep all the books? Draw your favourite place to read.

Art: Look closely at the different textures in the art in this story. Make a painting of one of your favourite place. Add texture by painting with tools such as tooth brushes, mesh vegetable bags, pinecones, etc.  

Description from the publisher:

In this lyrical picture book, world-renowned poet, New York Times bestselling author, and Coretta Scott King Honor winner Nikki Giovanni and fine artist Erin Robinson craft an ode to the magic of a library as a place not only for knowledge but also for imagination, exploration, and escape.

In what other place can a child "sail their dreams" and "surf the rainbow" without ever leaving the room? This ode to libraries is a celebration for everyone who loves stories, from seasoned readers to those just learning to love words, and it will have kids and parents alike imagining where their library can take them.

This inspiring read-aloud includes stunning illustrations and a note from Nikki Giovanni about the importance of libraries in her own childhood.

Monday, February 6, 2023

HUMMINGBIRD by Natalie Lloyd – a story about magical wishes, friendship and hummingbirds

Happy February! I've had to take a bit of a blogging break, due to the demands of my teaching job, but I'm so excited to be getting back to doing more reading. Winter is such a great time to cozy up with a good book! 

Deep purple background, girl in wheelchair on a stage with cone of light over her head
Why this book?

I was excited to read this story, because I enjoy reading stories where characters need to cope with medical or physical challenges. It was interesting to learn about Olive’s bone disease, osteogenesis imperfecta. I especially loved how Olive didn’t let her disability hold her back! Olive uses yoga breaths to help herself stay calm, which is a strategy I think many kids are learning to use as well.

Magical realism stories are so much fun, since the magical elements of the story—in this case a special wish--are embedded in everyday life. It was fun having Olive take us on the adventure of trying to solve the mystery of where to find the magical hummingbird, and I loved how Olive’s thoughts about what she wanted changed as she went along. For anyone who loves language, the little poems included at different places in the story are an added element to bring delight. I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the story and her word, “If there’s anything that birds—even teeny, little hummingbirds—can teach us, it’s that fragile creatures still get to fly.”

Connections: physical disabilities, school plays, friendship, magical wishes, yoga breathing, poetry, Emily Dickinson

Activity Ideas:

Social-Emotional Learning – Have a class discussion about strategies students might use to help themselves feel calm. Make a list of different strategies and experiment by trying different ones every day during a brief mindfulness period.

Literacy – Encourage students to make a list of words related to an event they have experienced, such as a dance, a hockey game, or being on stage. Once they have a list, they can try to create poetic sentences to capture the feelings they had when they experienced the event.

Literacy – Try this writing prompt: If you won a magical wish, what would you wish for? What might happen if you wish came true?

Watch the trailer: 

Author Natalie Lloyd reads Chapter 1:

Additional Resources:

Investigate hummingbirds with Audubon Adventures

Ideas for poetry lessons:  40 Inspiring Poetry Games and Activities for Kids and Teens by Jull Staake at

Description from the publisher:   

Twelve-year-old homeschooled Olive is tired of being seen as “fragile” just because she has osteogenesis imperfecta (otherwise known as brittle bone disease) so she’s thrilled when she finally convinces her parents to let her attend Macklemore Elementary. Olive can’t wait to go to a traditional school and make the friends she’s always longed for, until a disastrous first day dashes her hopes of ever fitting in.

Then Olive hears whispers about a magical, wish-granting hummingbird that supposedly lives near Macklemore. It’ll be the solution to all her problems! If she can find the bird and prove herself worthy, the creature will make her most desperate, secret wish come true.

When it becomes clear that she can’t solve the mystery on her own, Olive teams up with some unlikely allies who help her learn the truth about the bird. And on the way, she just might learn that our fragile places lead us to the most wonderful magic of all.

Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd was published by Scholastic Press in 2022. Visit the publisher's page here.

To find more middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, organized by Greg Pattridge over at his blog.