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My kids will be out of school in just a couple of weeks, and although we’ve got lots of fun activities and adventures planned for the summer break, I know from past experience that at some point my kiddos will complain that there is nothing to do. To combat this unpleasant phenomenon, I’ve started a list of “Summer Boredom Busters” that will not only conquer the “there’s nothing to do” blues, but will also keep their minds and curiosity active and prevent them from turning into screen zombies.
My first inspiration came when my oldest checked out an amazing book called “A Tangle of Knots” by Lisa Graff. The story is about a girl with magical talent for making extraordinary cakes who is being stalked by a nefarious Talent Stealer. The book includes 8 of the protagonist’s delicious looking cake recipes and my daughter asked me if we could try a couple of them out. And it hit me–this is the perfect summer activity: My kids get some quality mom time; the kids have motivation to read some great books, and learn some important cooking skills; and the whole family gets a treat! Now that’s a win-win-win!
I consulted my mom, a reading teacher/literacy guru, and she helped me come up with a great list of tween books that offer excellent, engaging stories spiced up with a couple of recipes that are featured within the story.
As an added benefit, Mom tells me that reading researchers recommend that students read at least six books over summer break to prevent what educators call the summer slump, a circumstance where the average student backslides about 2 months. Happily, these culinary novels provide practice with several types of reading and with some basic math skills to boot. Might be a terrific activity for homeschoolers too. Check out the best 10+ Chapter Books for Tween Foodies:
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
Primrose Squarp is an orphan, and there’s no great clamoring of prospective adopters. After being placed with her Uncle Jack, who reluctantly takes her in Primrose finds solace in a true sanctuary, a local restaurant called The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything–including lasagna–is served on a waffle, and where the proprietor Miss Bowzer offers a willing ear.
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.
A Witch’s Kitchen by Dianna Sanchez
Millie’s a witch’s, so why can’t she do magic? Despite her mother’s best efforts to teach her, every spell Millie tries goes horribly wrong, but she’s a fabulous cook. When Millie conjures chocolate sauce instead of a transformation potion, her mother gives up and sends her to the Enchanted Forest School, where she’s bullied by goblins, snubbed by an elf, and has her hat stolen and that’s just the beginning.
A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff
It’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For kids with special Talents, the place to be is Camp Atropos, to sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t realize is that they’ve been gathered for a reason–one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs.
Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated but soon finds just the right opportunity but, in order to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret! Easy as pie, right?
Pie by Sarah Weeks
When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
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. . . 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.
The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer
Annie, Genna, and Zoe have been hanging out at the Steeping Leaf since elementary school. The Teashop Girls do everything together — at least they used to. With the end of eighth grade approaching, Genna’s too busy with theater, Zoe’s always at tennis, and Annie feels totally left out. When Annie convinces her grandmother to give her a job as a barista at the Leaf, things begin to look up. In between whipping up chai lattes for customers, and attempting to catch the attention of her Barista Boy crush, Annie is finally beginning to feel as grown-up as her best friends. But an eviction notice spells trouble for the Leaf and unless they can turn the business around, the teashop will have to close.
The Secret Ingredient by Laura Schaefer
It’s the summer before ninth grade, and Annie has been working hard at the Steeping Leaf, which has been busier than ever. And Annie’s involved in a huge scone cook-off with one of Louisa’s tea suppliers that could mean an all-expenses paid trip to London! But competition is tough, and Annie suspects sabotage when some mean comments show up on her blog. Then there’s the whole matter of a stolen kiss with Zach Anderson in the Steeping Leaf stockroom…. With the help of her two best friends, Genna and Zoe, can Annie come up with an awesome contest entry and sort out her love life before the end of the summer? Includes recipes for tea and tea-related treats.
It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder
Twelve year old Isabel is dying to get out of Willow, Oregon and experience something other than her small town. When Isabel learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expense paid trip to New York City, she realizes this is her chance to finally get out of Willow. Except there are two major roadblocks to this plan: Sophie, who also is entering the contest and is always the best at everything, and her own mom, who wants her to enter the contest on her terms. Can Isabel manage to finally do something for herself, without losing her best friend and further straining her already tenuous relationship with her mother?
Confectionately Yours #1: Save the Cupcake! by Lisa Papademetriou
Hayley’s world is far from perfect: her parents have divorced, her mom has lost her job, and she and her sister Chloe are stuck sharing a bedroom in their grandmother’s apartment. Luckily, Hayley has a knack for baking cupcakes — and cupcakes always make life just a little sweeter! But when she and her best friend Artie start drifting apart, she realizes that it’s going to take more than sugar and spice to make things nice.
Bliss (Bliss Bakery Trilogy) by Kathryn Littlewood
Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke locked away while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up. Soon boring, non-magical recipes feel like life before the stranger—a lot less fun. So Rose and her siblings experiment with just a couple of recipes from the forbidden Cookery Booke. A few Love Muffins and Cookies of Truth couldn’t cause too much trouble . . . could they?
Just Add Magic by Cindy Callaghan
Take three friends. Add an old cookbook. Combine with cute boys and a pinch of magic…and see what kind of chaos ensues! When Kelly Quinn and her two BFFs discover a dusty old cookbook while cleaning out the attic, the girls decide to try a few of the mysterious and supposedly magical recipes that are inside. Is it possible that the recipes really are magic? Who wrote them and where did they come from? And most importantly of all, when boys get involved, what kind of trouble are the girls stirring up for themselves?
Granny Torrelli Makes Soup by Sharon Creech
Twelve-year-old Rosie and her best friend, Bailey, don’t always get along, that’s true. But Granny Torrelli seems to know just how to make things right again with her interesting stories and family recipes. It’s easier to remember what’s important about love, life, and friendship while Granny Torrelli makes soup.
Well I’m off to the kitchen so the kids can try out another great Tangled Knot recipe. What do you think: Marigold’s Lime Pound Cake? Toby’s (Not Quite Perfect) Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting? The Owner’s Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting? Or V’s Mystery Fudge Cake?