Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Close to Famous, by Joan Bauer. Viking, 2011, 250 pages. 

Reading Level: Middle Grades, 10-12
Recommended for: ages 11-13

Bottom Line: In this feel-good middle grade novel, 12-year-old Foster gets to realize her dream of baking the world’s best cupcake.

Foster McPhee, 12, is an ordinary girl who doesn’t live up to standard expectations but nonetheless has a gift and a dream.  Foster’s big failure is severe dyslexia—or some learning problem that leaves her unable to read.  Her school experience has been spotty because she and her mom move around a lot, especially since Dad was killed in Iraq and Mom drifted into an unfortunate relationship with an Elvis impersonator in Memphis.  It’s because of Elvis that they  say good-bye to Memphis and head north for Small Town, Anywhere, which turns out to be Culpepper, West Virginia.   Adjusting to the place takes some doing, but Foster is determined to realize her ambition, which is to become the world’s best baker of cupcakes.

She gets her foot in the door at Angry Al’s Diner, but is also recruited by Macon (another small-town dreamer) for his documentary film project about the new prison that promised to revitalize Culpepper’s sagging economy but didn’t.  The town has other problems, but even its crankiest citizens will eventually learn that there’s not much a good cupcake can’t improve, from calming an escaped felon to inspiring a jilted movie star.  Supporting character are chiched and the homespun wisdom goes on a little thick in places, as in “Just take the next step and don’t look too far down the road.”  Still, readers will have a good time seeing everything work out well in the end, for the town of Culpepper as well as Foster and her mom (an aspiring recording artist, who gets a chance to sing her heart out at benefit concert).

Cautions: Language (a few misuses of God’s name)

Overall Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 3.5

Categories: Middle Grades, Realistic Fiction, Character Values

 

 

 

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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4 Comments

  1. Brandy on August 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Hmmmm…after reading this I may give Bauer a second chance. Close to Famous was the first book of hers I read and I was less than impressed. That might have been because I read it shortly after having read the latest Penderwick book and no MG novel about girls can compare to hers. I had also just read Lisa Schroeder’s It’s Raining Cupcakes. I liked Schroeder’s book, which has some similarities to Bauer’s, a lot better. It was not quite as quirky or melodramatic and had a good strong father figure (something sadly lacking in most MG and YA novels).

  2. Brandy on August 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Hmmmm…after reading this I may give Bauer a second chance. Close to Famous was the first book of hers I read and I was less than impressed. That might have been because I read it shortly after having read the latest Penderwick book and no MG novel about girls can compare to hers. I had also just read Lisa Schroeder’s It’s Raining Cupcakes. I liked Schroeder’s book, which has some similarities to Bauer’s, a lot better. It was not quite as quirky or melodramatic and had a good strong father figure (something sadly lacking in most MG and YA novels).

  3. emily on August 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hooray for working girls! And for women who write about them!

  4. emily on August 13, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hooray for working girls! And for women who write about them!

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