An island mystery – and cupcakes for the county fair. What could be better?
The Treasure of Maria Mamoun by Michelle Chalfoun. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016.
Maria Theresa Ramirez Mamoun lives with her mother Celeste in New York City. When her mother finally realizes how bad the bullies in the building are, she takes a nursing job on a tiny New England island, where they can stay in a cottage on the property of wealthy Mr. Ironwall. Maria starts looking into an old treasure map she finds wedged in her attic bedroom, and reluctantly makes her first friends in Brutus, Mr. Ironwall’s dog, Mr. Ironwall himself, and Paolo, the housekeeper’s son. Together, Paolo and Maria restore a sailboat and try to decode the clues on the treasure map, while avoiding the bullies that crop up even on isolated islands. It’s filled with the joy of exploring nature and good food, from Celeste’s Lebanese cooking to the seafood and cinnamon rolls of the island. Nature and friendship helping a scarred child recover aren’t new themes, but the issues are fresher and I will probably never tire of stories of introverts finding safe places to unfold and make friends.
Summer Showers. Cupcake Cousins Number 2 by Kate Hannigan. Illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes. Scholastic, 2015.
I read this second Cupcake Cousins book aloud to my daughter following the first one. She’s much more interested in realistic fiction than my son, and this series, set in our own state of Michigan and featuring a perfect blend of fun and real-life issues is perfect. This time, the story of two best-friend cousins is told from the perspective of Delia, originally from Detroit, and the more responsible of the two cousins. Willow may like to take life as it comes, but Delia notices and plans and worries. A year after the first book, Delia’s father is now a full-time artist with his art hanging in the new Arts and Eats Café – but so far, the out-of-the-way gallery and café isn’t attracting much notice. Would entering something in the upcoming county fair help? The family is gathered this summer not only for their traditional Saugatuck vacation, but also to have a baby shower for Aunt Rosie and Uncle Jonathan, whose wedding was the highlight of the previous summer. Delia and Willow of course want to showcase their baking skills at the shower – but since Willow’s hurt her hand in karate, everyone seems to think they won’t be baking anything. Can they throw Aunt Rosie and Uncle Jonathan a fabulous baby shower, save little Sweet William and his ever-growing menagerie from thunderstorm trauma, and put the Arts and Eats Café on the map? Don’t tell my daughter, but the third and final volume in this series, Winter Wonders, will be under the tree for her. Maybe we’ll even find the time to try some of the recipes over break.