Susan Heyboer O'Keefe, Author . Roaring Brook/Brodie $15.95 (134p) ISBN 978-1-59643-011-2

The narrator of O'Keefe's (My Life and Death by Alexandra Canarsie ) appealingly outlandish novel is an aspiring young chef who prepares extravagant meals for his workaholic actuary father and his eccentric mother (she teaches a class on "Uncovering the Real You" and attends one on "Exploring Past Lives"). Yet Bertie hides his passion for cooking from his classmates, especially Nick (his "mortal enem[y]... ever since kindergarten"). Bertie's devotion to his culinary pursuits leaves little time for schoolwork, and his slipping grades prompt his teacher to give him a chance to earn extra credit. His project: to care for a bag of flour, a "brand-new baby girl," which he must return in 10 days in perfect condition. The stew thickens when the teacher, fed up with Nick's antics, gives him a flour baby as well—a punishment Nick blames on Bertie. Meanwhile, Bertie's mother, who is in her "Egyptian craze," names his ward Cleopatra and decides that she is the flour baby's mother. The plot's comical twists border on the slapstick: when Bertie receives an envelope from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), his mother believes he plans to run away to be a spy; and when Nick purloins Cleopatra, Bertie takes Nick's good-natured mother as a willing hostage in order to secure his flour baby's return. A soupçon of silliness and hefty helpings of genuine humor will whet the appetites of young readers who crave light yet satisfying fare. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Hardcover - 144 pages - 978-0-7613-2399-0
Library Binding - 144 pages - 978-0-7613-2947-3
Paperback - 134 pages - 978-0-312-60241-3
Ebook - 144 pages - 978-1-4299-4631-5
Prebound-Sewn - 134 pages - 978-1-60686-600-9
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