- ISBN-13: 9780670012824
- ISBN-10: 0670012823
- Publisher: Viking Childrens Books
- Publish Date: February 2011
- Page Count: 250
- Reading Level: Ages 12-UP
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-12-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Bauer (Peeled) tweaks a familiar recipe in this heartwarming novel about a determined girl who faces adversity with humor, heart—and cupcakes. A recent sixth-grade graduate (by the skin of her teeth), Foster McFee lands in tiny Culpepper, W.Va., with her mother after the two of them hightail it away from Mom's abusive, Elvis-impersonator boyfriend in Memphis. Foster has already known her share of tough times: her soldier father was killed in Iraq, and she's been struggling through school, unable to read. But Foster's dream of having her own show on the Food Network is a powerful force, and she takes comfort in baking and in emulating her favorite TV chef. With the help of kind and quirky locals, including a former movie star, Foster makes friends, earns fans for her cupcakes, and even begins to conquer her reading difficulties. Bauer skillfully brings readers to the heart of Culpepper with rich depictions of a contemporary small town and its residents and rhythms. The characters' eventual triumphs are the type that this author's fans eat up. Ages 10–up. (Feb.)
The sweet smell of success
“When your heart is ready to break, that’s the perfect time to bake,” is one of Foster McFee’s many tips for cooking—and living. In Close to Famous by Newbery Honor-winning author Joan Bauer, 12-year-old Foster has indeed found the perfect time to bake. Still grieving from the death of her soldier father in Iraq nearly five years ago, Foster and her backup-singer mother are forced to flee their Memphis rental after her mother is punched in the face by her ex-boyfriend.
After driving all night, they find themselves in Culpepper, West Virginia, where a new prison and a factory closing have hit the locals hard. With dreams of being the youngest chef on the Food Network, Foster introduces her scrumptious cupcakes—and hope—to the depressed town. With the tween’s help, aspiring documentary filmmaker Macon confronts the unfulfilled promises of the prison, secluded award-winning actress Charleena Hendley finds the courage to return to Hollywood, Wayne (of Angry Wayne’s Bar and Grill) reveals a generous side, and Foster’s mother steps out of the shadows and into the limelight as a singer.
Even Foster is transformed as she admits to being practically illiterate. Just like her cupcakes, she springs back when ready. Her newfound friends begin to teach her to read and change her self-perception from limited to limitless. Through it all, Bauer once again displays her keen gift for dialogue and subtle humor, showing the possibilities when different generations and community members rally together.