The Midsummer Garden, by Kirsty Manning

It was an odd engagement present. Heirloom or not, such gifts were not usually covered in grime and dust. Pip sneezed as she started unpacking four boxes of antique French pots: copper boilers, streaked and mottled with watermarks, so when the soft morning light reflected off the pots and hit the white walls of the tiny worker’s cottage, they rippled with rainbows. Some of the pots were so large Pip had to brace herself to lift them out of the boxes. When she pulled off the lids, their blackened insides were etched and lined with age.

When she moves in to a tiny workers cottage with her fiance, Jack, Pip really doesn’t have room for the set of large copper pots her parents send as an engagement gift, but she is determined to have them on display. They bear memories of her childhood and a deeper connection Pip doesn’t completely understand. but the warmth of the copper pots might not be enough to keep Pip’s plans on track. She wants to get her PhD project finished before she and Jack get married and travel, but Jack is impatient, and wants everything to happen now.

In 1427, Artemisia, the cook at the Chateau de Boschaud also has copper pots. she is busy preparing the dishes, the settings, even the special bathing waters for the Lord and his bride. It is tough work, but it is made easier by Artemisia’s secret. this will be her last day at the chateau: soon she will be free and ready to build a new life.

The stories of Pip and Artemisia are separate, yet there are connections across the many centuries between their lives, and Artemisia’s vast knowledge of herbs cooking are not only reflected in Pip’s interests, but are even shared through treasured finds. Readers will want to trace the adventures of each, o find out whether happiness is possible for either, or for both.

The Midsummer Garden is a satisfying blend of contemporary and historical fiction, with each story compelling and well wrought, and the links between the two intriguing. Themes of happiness, of family lore, relationships and self fulfillment are explored and food lovers will enjoy the culinary detail.

The Midsummer Garden, by Kirsty Manning
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294748

The Pretty Delicious Café by Danielle Hawkins

One Wednesday in October I spoilt a perfectly good spring evening by going to bed with a book called Run, Bobby, Run. Hugh at the deli had lent it to me that afternoon when I dropped in for twenty kilos of coffee beans, promising a gripping, fiendishly clever read, and after a solid fortnight of my late Great-Aunty Sheila’s Anne Hepple novels I thought that sounded like just the thing.
It wasn’t.

The Pretty Delicious Café’ is set in a small town on the coast in New Zealand. Lia and her friend Anna run a café that gets very busy in tourist season. Sounds idyllic. And it is. Or would be, if life hadn’t also introduced pre-wedding nerves in your business partner … who is about to marry your twin brother … and an ex-boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer … and two differently challenging parents who live (luckily) in different places … and a business that’s not yet on firm footing. Lia has it all, and then some. On the night ‘The Pretty Delicious Café’ begins, she also has a prowler.

Lia is just trying to make a go of life. She has loving but eccentric family and friends around her and she’s doing her best to make a go of the café she co-owns. But it’s hard to keep your focus when an old romance is over, a new one may just have appeared, your partner is behaving strangely and you feel you are parenting your parents. ‘The Pretty Delicious Café’ is full of love and laughter, drama and excitement. An entertaining peek into small town world, jam-packed with character and charm. Recommended for readers who like their stories fast-paced and with a happy ending.

The Pretty Delicious Café, Danielle Hawkins
HarperCollins 2016 ISBN: 9781460752586

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

Sage Cookson travels a lot. Her parents are television cooks and she goes where they go. She loves the adventure and the travel but sometimes misses her friend Lucy. In this second Sage Cookson adventure, Sage travels with her parents to Harmon Island, an island off the coast of Tasmania. There, they will film an episode about the bakery and their amazing pies. But Bettina, one of the bakery’s owners loses a ring and thinks Sage has something to do with it. Sage has to work quickly to solve the mystery before others also begin to believe she is responsible.

‘Ring of Truth’ is the second instalment in this new series from New Frontier for independent readers. Sage is a normal, sometimes messy, child who would rather be solving mysteries than doing her homework. She enjoys her travels with her family and their tv crew, but also misses time with her friends, especially Lucy. In each book, there is a mystery to be solved, and Sage is the girl for the job. She is observant, quick-thinking, caring. And there is food. Good food. Great fun: interesting settings and some sleuthing. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059748

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape by Sally Murphy

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

Sage travels around Australia with her parents who front a TV series about cooking. She loves the travel, even if she misses her best friend, Lucy. But her parents have relented and she now has a mobile phone so they can keep in touch – when they are in range. This adventure sees the family and crew in south west Western Australia where they meet a chocolatier, Marco and his assistant, Nancy. The chocolate the duo make is delicious and Sage enjoys learning about cocoa and where it’s grown. But there’s something not quite right here.

‘Sweet Escape’ is the first title in a new series for young readers from New Frontier Publishing. Sage misses her friend when they travel, but she loves her adventures with her parents and the crew of the TV show. The series showcases different parts of Australia as well as different foods, while Sage unravels mysteries. Sage Cookson (with a bit of help from her family) offers bite-sized adventures recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925059618

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

OtherCHristyMy name is Christy but nobody calls me that. I’m in the same class with another girl named Christie, so I’ve become just the other Christy, the spare Christy. Not the popular, loud one everyone likes.

Christy Ung has been on the outer ever since she arrived in Australia. Every year she is put in the same class as Christie Owen, and that makes Christy the other Christy. Christie Owen is loud and popular – but she’s also mean, especially to Christy. Christy, meanwhile, has no friends, and her classmates don’t even seem to notice her. The only people who seem to care are Auntie Mayly and Grandpa, who is really strange, and whose main passion in life is cleaning. With such a strange home life, Christy wonders if she will ever be able to make a friend.

The Other Christy is a humorous but touching story of searching for friendship an fitting in, dealing as well with issues of immigration and bereavement. Christy is being raised by her Grandfather after the death of her mother in Cambodia, and is keenly aware of the differences between her own homelife and those of her classmates. Christy is a likeable protagonist, and the resolution is satisfying.

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh
Puffin Books, 2016
ISBN9780143505723

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise, by Jedda Robaard

George was so happy that he started to sing one of his made up songs:
‘Raspberry, raspberry, red and sweet,
How very lovely you are to eat!’

George the Bilby loves to cook, so when his friend Betty Echidna’s birthday arrives, George wants to make her something special: Raspberry Muffins. But he needs some help from his friends to find the raspberries, pick them and get them home. Finally he can bake the muffins ready for the party.

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise is the first in a new series from author-illustrator Jedda Robaard. With a cast of Aussie animals rendered in sweet pastel tones, and a collectible recipe card for the muffins which George bakes in the book, as well as gentle message about cooperation and sharing, this hard cover offering will be loved kids and parents.

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise, by Jedda Robaard
Five Mile Press, 2016
ISBN 9781760067113

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo

A Curry for MurrayMolly made…
slippery duck pasta for her brother’s headmaster,
spit-roasted geese for the local police,
and Singapore noodles for the Montague poodles!

Molly likes her neighbours Maureen and Murray, so when Maureen goes to hospital, Molly decides to make a curry for Murray. Word soon gets out about her wonderful culinary skills, and soon Molly is cooking and baking for friends near and far. But in the midst of her cooking chaos, Molly hurts herself – and Mum says ‘enough’. Finally, when Maureen gets home from hospital, it is Molly’s turn to receive a food gift.

A Curry for Murray is a gorgeous new picture book with lots of food-based silliness in both text and illustrations. Alongside the fun aspect, there is also lots of information about food, with visual representations of the ingredients in each dish, and a lovely demonstration of community spirit. The food offerings, as well as rhyming with the recipient names, come from a range of different cuisines, and some of the food is sent to faraway places, offering lots of opportunities for discussion.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations have touches of whimsy and lots of detail for youngsters to explore. From the cover through to the endpapers, this is a beautiful book to own and engage with.

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo
UQP, 2015
ISBN 9780702253546

Available from good bookstores and online.

Little Chef, Big Curse, by Tilney Cotton

It all began one winter’s night, five hundred years ago, in a sleepy little village. Snow sprinkled the rooftops and pale wisps of smoke rose from a chimney or two.
The moon had just risen when a shooting star whipped across the sky, trailing a dazzling thread of green and red cinders.

500 years after a curse has been placed on the kingdom of Yurp, Matty Swink finds himself in a spot of bother. He’s a virtual prisoner as general dogsbody in a dodgy restaurant, but dreams of cooking glory. So when the King of Yurp announces a cooking contest, Matty is determined to win it. All he has to do is get Princess Meg to like his dish. But he soon discovers that winning the contest might not be the answer to his prayers.

Little Chef, Big Curse is a funny, action filled tale about cooking, curses and weird moon-rats with big appetites. Matty is a likeable, well-intentioned main character who is the victim of an equally unlikeable villain in the form of Fenella, a restaurateur with a penchant for unsavoury dishes made from whatever she can catch or scrape up. Matty’s story blends humour, adventure and fantasy. The occasional intrusions of the narrator take the reader into the story and add to the fun.

Suitable for middle and upper primary aged readers.

 

Little Chef, Big Curse

Little Chef, Big Curse, by Tilney Cotton
Scholastic, 2014
ISBN 9781742832692

Available from good bookstores and online.

Love & Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food, by Charlotte Wood

I began really learning to cook in my mid-twenties, at about the same time as I began really learning to write. I have only recently wondered if there is a link between these two things, other than the circumstances in which I found myself: an idle university student in possession of time for dawdling, some vague creative urges and new friends who inspired me with their own creativity and skill with a pen or a frying pan.

Charlotte Wood’s fiction offerings, including Animal People (2011) and The Children (2007) have attracted critical acclaim, but she is also a successful food writer, with her own blog and numerous magazine features including Gourmet Traveller and Good Weekend. In Love and Hunger Wood shares her love of food in an offering which is part memoir, part recipe book, exploring the shared nature of cooking and eating. With section focussing on learning to cook, practical tips for cooking, philosophical observations about food, and comfort cooking. There are over 75 recipes and, most importantly, a real celebration of the communal, loving nature of food and cooking.

Even for those who are not avid cooks, this is a book which makes the reader want to spend time in the kitchen, creating and sharing and simply enjoying the pleasures of good food. At the same time, the quality of the writing is deeply satisfying, bringing together Woods’ two much-loved art forms in a satisfying whole.

Love and Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food

Love and Hunger: Thoughts on the Gift of Food, by Charlotte Wood
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742377766

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The AWW Cooking School

There is no shortage of cookbooks on the market, but what sets The AWW Cooking Schoolapart from so many others is that it features recipes which even a beginner can cook, with ingredients easily available.

Many recipes include step by step photographs, and the book is divided into straightforward chapters for easy access – pasta, rice, vegetables, desserts, cakes and so on. ‘Special features’ of double page spread help with identification of and understanding of food types including noodles, spices, fruits, salads, cheeses and more.

From the publishers of the Australian Women’s Weekly, this sturdy hardcover offering is ideal for a new cook, giving a thorough grounding in cooking a wide variety of dishes, in a manner which is accessible and informative.

Would make an ideal gift for an engagement or twenty first birthday.

The AWW Cooking School

The AWW Cooking School ACP Books, 2010

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.