Saturday, October 17, 2015

Surprise in the Kitchen by Mary Lee

Rating: WARTY!

This is the third is a series of Mia books that I got as a single set. Two out of three isn't bad. This one was less appealing than the previous two. They're very much aimed at girls, and I wish they were a little more inclusive, but the story is about Mia, and her activities and passions, so that's the only perspective we get. That said, I did like the books in general terms. They were fun and feisty and interestingly drawn and plotted. The books are colorful and the other two told a real story. I imagine they would be quite engaging for all children, until the young boys start growing into other pursuits. This one was less than satisfying.

Mia is a fun-loving and slightly accident-prone child who has a wild imagination and goes full-on into new adventures. In this one, she's invited to make cookies with mom. What bothered me about this one, having read three of them now, was that dad was not very involved in Mia's life. I got the impression that these stories were rooted in true life adventures, and that dad was out at work while mom was home (or out) with Mia during them. This is fine, but it would have been nice to have seen more variety in terms of parental interaction in Mia's stories even were it not there in real life for whatever reason. Mom even seems to sleep alone as judged by this particular story. Indeed, dad got only one mention in the entire three-book set, and that was very briefly in the first one I read. maybe they got divorced?!

Mia isn't fond of baking, but she is fond of eating, so she feels rather like a spare wheel in the kitchen. She decides to make up for this by preparing breakfast for mom, and it turns into a predictable Mia-style disaster. It's nothing a nice plate of spaghetti can't cure, however. I can't recommend this story for the reasons I've mentioned, and because this one felt a lot less engaging than the previous two had. The cookie-baking was really not there - there was a start and an end but no middle (where we learn what went into the cookies), and I felt this was an omission that should have itself been omitted. Actually we didn't even really see Mia get to eat a cookie!

This could have been used as a great teaching tool - to encourage children to seek advice from one parent when planning a surprise breakfast for the other, so it doesn't end up as too much of a surprise; to teach kids a bit about baking and kitchen safety; to show engagement with the dad in making the cookies. I think, as a recipe, it was lacking and needed healthier ingredients. But I wish Mia the best and hope her dreams and adventures continue!

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