Lights, Camera, Cook! A Review of Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster

Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster
Written by Rachelle Delaney
Published by Penguin Random House Canada
Ages 10-14
Available May 11, 2021

Twelve-year-old Alice Fleck likes to help her food historian father cook everything from pigeon pies to blancmange. It’s their favorite pastime, along with watching Culinary Chronicles, a sweet reality cooking show where contestants whip up historical goodies. They have a good time together, but it’s getting complicated ever since Hana came into the picture. Hana is her father Jim’s new girlfriend, and it’s not been an easy adjustment with all the changes to their routines, including the trio’s upcoming trip to a Victorian festival. The latest surprise is a doozy: Hana entered the father-daughter duo into Culinary Chronicles and they were accepted as contestants—and it’s taking place at the very Victorian festival they were going to attend! But Alice is in for a bigger surprise—the kindhearted Culinary Chronicles has been rebranded as Culinary Combat, featuring infamous judge Tom Truffleman and on a premium channel to boot. Alice will start middle school soon and doesn’t want to be splashed across her new classmates’ TV sets. If sharing her break with Hana and critical Tom Truffleman weren’t bad enough, it looks like there is a saboteur in the cooking contestants’ midst. Will Alice and her new friends crack the mystery, or will the saboteur ruin Alice’s cooking chances on national television? Rachelle Delaney’s delightful mystery tackles jealousy, parents’ dating, and middle school growing pains. Alice is a precocious tween who rarely realizes what she’s feeling until she’s in the thick of it, especially when it comes to Hana. The reader sees Alice’s initial skittishness around children her own age and watches her confidence grow as a friendship develops between with fellow middle schooler Octavia Spencer over their mutually unique interests (Octavia is into Victorian ghosts). Alice’s friendship with Octavia gives her an outlet to talk about Hana and the reality show performance pressures, both things that are hard for her to discuss with her father. Alice’s growing maturity also translates into a more open and comfortable relationship with Hana—one where they can even cook their own contemporary fare, like mochi ice cream. This lighthearted book primarily takes on evolving families with a secondary backgrounded mystery; the true star of the book is the changing dynamic between Alice, Hana, and Jim.