cover image One Hundred Spaghetti Strings

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings

Jen Nails. Harper, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-242760-1

Fifth-grader Steffy Sandolini navigates a complicated family in Nails’s (Next to Mexico) emotionally charged story. Her mother suffered a traumatic brain injury when Steffy was three and now resides in an assisted living facility, leaving Steffy and her older sister, Nina, to be raised by their Auntie Gina. Their father, who abandoned them after the accident, has recently returned to claim the girls, but is emotionally unavailable and secretly struggling with addiction. Living with her father, a virtual stranger, Steffy quietly attempts to understand his long absence. With her aunt beginning a new family and Nina pulling away, Steffy turns to her mother’s old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which is stuffed with collected recipes and handwritten notes, in an effort to reconnect. Through an autobiography project at school and a cooking competition, Steffy begins to see the ways in which the ingredients of her family combine and that the final result, while flawed and sometimes unexpected, is still delicious. Steffy’s growing understanding of what makes a family and journey to find her voice through food are powerful, and her story is rich with fodder for discussion. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)