Saturday, April 13, 2013
My Chocolate Year: a novel with 12 recipes by Charlotte Herman
It is September 1945, the war is over and Dorrie Meyers is starting fifth grade. And the best part is that her best friend Sunny Shapiro is in her class and their teacher is the very popular Miss Fitzgerald. Popular because each year, Miss Fitzgerald has a Sweet Semester, in which each student thinks up a dessert to make, writes an essay about it and in January they all bring in their entries and a prize goes out to one winner dessert and one winning essay.
Dorrie loves chocolate passionately and is very excited about Sweet Semester, except for one problem - she has no idea how to make anything, let alone a prize winning dessert. And this year is a special Sweet Semester because not only will family members be invited, but the winners will also get their pictures in the Chicago Daily News. In addition, since there are now so many orphans in Europe as a result of the war, the class will has a donation jar set up to collect money to send to a charity which cares for the orphans.
The subject of orphans soon hits home for Dorrie. Her grandparents had all migrated to America, but there were still relatives who had remained in Lithuania. No one knew what happened to them after war. Since they were Jewish the worst was feared and Dorrie's mother has been making inquires to find them. Then, one November morning, good news arrives. Victor Dubin, son of Dorrie's Aunt Mina and Uncle Joseph and grandson of Dorrie's Bubbie, was found living in a Displaced Persons camp. No sooner found, than arrangements begin to be made to bring Victor to America. Sadly, no other family members survived.
Victor, now an orphan, and orphan jar in school get Dorrie to thinking about the Margaret O'Brien and the movie Journey for Margaret, about a young girl orphaned during the London Blitz. How, Dorrie wonders, did she play such a convincing orphan? So she writes a letter to the actress to ask.
Meanwhile, Dorrie and Sunny experiment with different possibilities for Sweet Semester. The first idea, Chocolate Covered Gum, dissolves into a chocolaty mess. Their chocolate covered nuts and raisins clusters taste delicious, but was that all chocolate in them? Oh, and when you add flour to brownies using the electric mixer, it is much easier if you turn the mixer off.
It is really beginning to look like Dorrie isn't going to win that Sweet Semester competition despite the fact that both her mother and Buddie are excellent bakers. She just doesn't seem to have a natural instinct for baking. She really needs a miracle...could that miracle come in the form of both real and movie orphans?
This is a lovely story about the strength and importance of family. It is told in Dorrie's voice and even though it is not written as a diary, it reads like on. The book follows the year though all the Jewish holidays, starting with Rosh Hashanah and Dorrie explains the story and Jewish customs for celebrating each holiday for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with them. She also talks about the war and it's effect on her family, and when Victor comes, we hear his story in detail, but not so much detail that it would be too much for the targeted age of intended readers. This is a book, after all, that is written for kids who are beginning to learn about the Holocaust.
Now, the 12 recipes. Not all are real recipes, but some are and they are made from scratch. My 10 year old budding chef liked that idea, since she is a cooking purist. We actually make Dorrie's Sweet Semester entry, which was so good that when I went to take a picture, they were all gone. Lesson learned - don't leave good tasting stuff unattended with kids in the house and without telling them hands off.
This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my personal library
Weekend Cooking is a weekly event hosted by Beth Fish Reads