Raisin is a part of a small co-op group that occassionally reads a book and does activities related to it. Our most recent read was The Perfect Hamburger and Other Stories by Alexander McCall-Smith. Alexander McCall-Smith has always been a favorite author of mine. This particular collection of middle-grade stories are all related to food, and kids are somehow the heros.
In one story, a boy wants to help save his favorite hamburger joint from the chain restaurants which are taking away his business. The boy is able to help his friend (the chef and owner) by helping him find a recipe for a perfect hamburger. In the second story, two kids, who live with their health-conscious and onion salad-loving aunt, seek out a recipe for the perfect spaghetti, and win a chance to tour the spaghetti factory. In the last story, a group of kids from school decide to hold a weekly donut sale to help raise funds for their janitor, who had his car stolen and has no way to retire. When there proves to be too much demand for the donuts, they must find a way to meet the demand!
All of these books were fun to read. I read them aloud to my son, and he was always eager to hear what happened next. I believe his favorite was the spaghetti story. There is something fun about the idea of playing in spaghetti. I enjoyed the stories, but as an adult, I had to suspend disbelief so frequently that I cannot say this collection is my favorite contribution by McCall-Smith. Since I’m an amateur foodie and cook, I found some of the attitudes a bit annoying (such as that a professional cook would be “above” eating a hamburger). I am not the main audience, however, so I do not think parents or kids should avoid this book for those reasons. This is a middle-grade work perfectly geared to the middle-grade and younger audience.
At Raisin’s book club activity, the kids made silly things to go along with the stories. They made mini-”hamburgers” out of Nilla wafers, chocolate, and frosting to hold it all together (that was my son’s favorite activity). They made artwork out of multi-colored spaghetti, and they mixed up some donuts and cooked them in a mini-donut maker and enjoyed those. As you can see, their book club is all about enjoying the end product: fun and food! In all, I think it was a delightful read and activity for his elementary-aged crowd of friends.