Monday, March 5, 2018

Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz, 2018

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Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own.

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.

(288 pages)

What a fun, sweet story. There's nothing in here that hasn't been done many times before, but Smart Cookie puts the elements together in a way that's interesting and engaging.

For one thing, the focus on cookies was great. I love cookies. I'm guessing you probably like cookies. Pretty much everybody likes cookies. Frankie is constantly making fresh batches for the bed-and-breakfast, choosing different recipes to match her mood, and it really made me start craving some cookies of my own (not that it takes a lot to do that). My only cookie-related gripe is that Swartz didn't include any recipes in the chapter beginnings or the back of the book! I would have liked to try one or two, and I know for sure that kids who are the target age would be even more excited about getting to make the sweets described in the story.

Okay, okay, moving on from the cookies. I quite liked Frankie, she was a perky kid with a lot of get-up-and-go. There were a lot of things going on around her that she didn't entirely understand, but she tried her best to keep up and contribute where she could. The storyline about her father's dating profile is actually a rather small component of the book, which also focuses on Frankie's class's preparation for the float, her old best friend's struggles with the repercussions of her father's abandonment, her father's efforts to keep the bed-and-breakfast afloat, and her grandmother's growing hoarding tendencies, as well as some other smaller storylines.

There's a lot going on, quite a bit of which touches on serious real-world issues in a way that is still enjoyable and manageable for younger readers. That's quite important to have in a book, I think. It's crucial to give children a method to grapple with and understand complex issues such as infidelity, financial hardship and mental health without scaring or hurting them. Smart Cookie does this in such a smooth way that I didn't even realize it until after I'd finished the book!

I recommend Smart Cookie to anyone who's thinking about reading it. If you do, let us know in the comments section what you think!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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