“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.
Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2011 Fall
On the run from Mom's ex-boyfriend, twelve-year-old cupcake-baker Foster McFee and her mother wind up in Culpepper, West Virginia. There, an odd assortment of characters come together like the ingredients for one of Foster's favorite confections. Foster's engaging first-person voice and interior monologue, the solid characterization, and the nimble, fast-paced prose are the quality ingredients of this tale cooked to perfection. Copyright 2011 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #1
On the run from her mother's ex-boyfriend, an Elvis impersonator named Huck driving a yellow Cadillac honking out 'Jailhouse Rock,' twelve-year-old Foster McFee and her mother flee Memphis late one night, and here they are in Culpepper, West Virginia, living in a borrowed Airstream trailer. All they have going for themselves are Mama's singing voice and Foster's dream of becoming the 'first kid cook on the Food Network.' Foster intends to save the world one cupcake at a time, but it's not easy baking in the tiny kitchen where a stuffed mounted bass looks down on Foster from the wall. But the power of good food rallies the declining town of Culpepper, the odd assortment of characters coming together like the ingredients for one of Foster's favorite cupcakes. Charleena Hendley, a famous actress hiding out from the public eye; Angry Wayne, proprietor of the local bar and grill; Perseverance Wilson, 'defender of all that's right and true'; and Macon Dillard, a little boy with big dreams, are all part of the village it takes to raise this Foster child. It's a feel-good tale with life-affirming lessons laid on like the frosting on Foster's cupcakes, and as expertly wrought. Foster's engaging first-person voice and interior monologue, the solid characterization, and the nimble, fast-paced prose are the quality ingredients of this tale cooked to perfection. The ending is best read with a cupcake in hand. . .but don't let tears spoil the frosting. DEAN SCHNEIDER Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2011 January #1
When a domestic relationship turns abusive, 12-year-old Foster McKee and her mother flee Memphis, stowing whatever they can carry in their Chevy, including Foster's treasured baking supplies and a few fresh-baked muffins for the road. Upon stumbling into the small town of Culpepper, W.Va., Foster's baking talents win the hearts of the townspeople, among whom number such quirky and colorful personalities as Angry Wayne, Perseverance Wilson and Miss Charleena, a retired—but still very dramatic—Hollywood star. Woven throughout her baking adventures is Foster's dream to be the Food Network's first kid host of a cooking show, and silly scenes of Foster hamming it up for an imaginary camera punctuate the text. Amid this agreeable foolishness, heavy issues of domestic violence, mental illness, illiteracy and the pain of the recent economic downturn make themselves felt. Bauer expertly balances these grim realities with Foster's ebullient personality and spunk, which could convince anyone that she will be able "make the world a better place one cupcake at a time."ÃÂ (Fiction. 10-14)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
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.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Sixth-grader Foster McFee is a supremely talented baker and dreams of being a famous television chef like Sonny Kroll, star of her favorite show on the Food Network, but she has already had to face some major challenges in her life. After her father's death in combat in Iraq, she and her mother, a talented singer, have had a hard time financially, and ultimately they are forced to leave Memphis in order to escape her mother's abusive Elvis-impersonator boyfriend. Worst of all, Foster is unable to read because of a learning disability. When she and her mother accidentally end up in Culpepper, WV, Foster finds some unlikely supporters among the tiny town's eccentric residents, including a boy with no camera who dreams of being a documentary filmmaker and a famous retired actress who lives in seclusion on the outskirts of the community. Thanks to them and to her own perseverance, Foster is able to work toward her dream of making the world a better place, one cupcake at a time. The story is fast paced, and readers will be rooting for likable and gutsy Foster, who expresses her views on life in baking metaphors. The quirky residents of Culpepper are equally believable and appealing. Youngsters will find this story tastier than a batch of Foster's triple chocolate cupcakes.--Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ[Page 154]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.