Author: Joan Bauer
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Dealing with Loss, Self-Discovery
Age Range: 4th-7th Grade
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Foster McFee dreams of having her own cooking show like her idol, celebrity chef Sonny Kroll. Macon Dillard's goal is to be a documentary filmmaker. Foster's mother Rayka longs to be a headliner instead of a back-up singer. And Miss Charleena plans a triumphant return to Hollywood. Everyone has a dream, but nobody is even close to famous in the little town of Culpepper. Until some unexpected events shake the town and its inhabitants-and put their big ambitions to the test.
I've enjoyed all of the books of Bauer's that I've read, and this one is no exception. Foster is a very likable character, and you root for her the whole time. When Foster's mother, Rayka, forces them to flee in the middle of the night to avoid her suddenly abusive boyfriend, the reader can worry about them without being overly scared, which is sort of an amazing feat for a children's author to pull off. Throughout the novel, it is clear that Foster has an unusual amount of maturity and focus for a child her age. She is determined to be the youngest celebrity chef on The Food Channel, and she is not going to let anything, including her mother's bad taste in men, keep her from achieving that dream.
Foster ends up being an example, not just to her mother, who ultimately does the right thing and turns her boyfriend in, but to a much bigger personality in the form of Miss Charleena, a famous Hollywood actress who went through a messy public divorce and has come home to lick her wounds. When Foster ends up helping out at her house in Culpepper, she shows Charleena what a person can accomplish when they refuse to focus on the negative, and keep smiling through the pain. When Foster is in pain, she bakes it away, but Miss Charleena finds her own way to move on after tragedy.
This book is full of charming characters with depth, and as Foster and her mother begin their new lives they are shown caring and support that they never expect, and that helps them realize that the world is not always the mean, painful place that they've experienced. Foster is also dealing with the loss of her father, who was killed in Iraq, and while she is teaching the adults in her life a lesson about reaching your dreams, she is also figuring out how to keep the memory of her father alive in her heart. I think that kids will relate to her, and there are plenty of life's lessons to talk about with students.