Friday, March 15, 2013

THE CUPCAKE CLUB: WINNER BAKES ALL by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

I'm trying to avoid bad puns like "fluffy" and "confection" when describing this book, which I read aloud to my six-year-old daughter, but I'm not sure that's possible. This is the third in a series by a mother and her nine-year-old daughter, and the first my daughter and I read. I'm doubt that we'll seek out the first two books in the series, as we both pronounced WINNER BAKES ALL merely "okay."

Fifth-grader Sadie, a great soccer player, is struggling with math and anxious about her cupcake club/business's upcoming televised competition on BATTLE OF THE BAKERS. She's also worried about her parents, who are fighting constantly about money, and about the economy, which is taking its toll on the profits of Peace, Love, and Cupcakes. The girls (Sadie, Kylie, Lexi, and Jenna) work together very well and support each other. Since I wasn't familiar with the first two books and the background was dribbled out inefficiently, it took me a bit to get up to speed. The girls have a cupcake club under the advisement of Miss Juliette, the drama teacher at school, that is also a business. It's not a small business, either - one order of 250 cupcakes is supposed to bring in $1,200. I'm not really sure how elementary school students manage to keep up with running a business (not to mention health department issues with selling food made in a home kitchen), but my daughter enjoyed their brainstorming about cupcake ideas quite a bit. She had less patience with the "serious" issues given cursory treatment - Sadie's concern about her parents is repetitive, with Sadie hearing them fight about money and worrying about divorce until, at the end, her parents tell her she has nothing to worry about. Problem solved. The BATTLE OF THE BAKERS competition was cute. The other competitors are caricatures and PLC randomly brings in an extra friend to help them bake with the competition, but their brainstorming and careful execution of ideas are entertaining. Recipes included at the end are a nice bonus.

I'm not sure what tweeners would make of this book. My daughter and I are both outside the target audience for WINNER BAKES ALL, and she enjoyed it more than I did. There are many children's books that transcend their target audience and are a delight for adults to read, but this is not one of them. The divorce issue is a red herring that makes the book initially seem deeper than it is, and honestly, it would have been fine without that storyline. Divorce is a serious issue, and one that certainly concerns children, but it's not treated with any depth here. The same is true with the money problems - while Sadie seems to feel that making more money from cupcakes might help her family, what are the stakes, really, for a child-run business?

I'm giving this one three stars for the positive relationships among the girls and for the cupcake fun.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title from the publisher.

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