Written by Ewa Jozefkowicz
Cover art by Katy Riddell
Published by Zephyr
Published on 10th June
I am very excited to be part of the Blog Tour for this wonderful book today where I will be sharing a piece from Ewa and my review.
Thank you so much to Fritha Lindqvist and Zephyr for my invitation, and to Ewa for sharing the following piece on how she hopes The Cooking Club Detectives will be used by adults living and working with children to discuss the themes of community and food poverty. Ewa has also shared some passages that could be read and used as conversation starters with KS2 children.
The Cooking Club Detectives was inspired by the work of Magic Breakfast, a wonderful charity which provides nutritious meals for children at risk of hunger in the UK. The story centres on themes of community, friendship and food – and has a mystery at its heart.
Erin, Tanya, Frixos and Sam all come from different walks of life, but they are brought together by their mutual love of food in their school’s cooking club. When the community centre, in which the club is hosted, comes under threat of closure, they work together to find out who is behind it all, aiming to stop them before it’s too late!
I hope that the book might provide some support to parents and teachers discussing the themes of community and food poverty with KS2 children. Below are a couple of passages which might be useful conversation starters:
Erin’s friend Sam talking about the community centre:
‘I’ve been going there since I was a child,’ said Sam, suddenly speaking up in a way that I’d never heard before. ‘I went to daycare there when I was little so my mum and my grandma could go to work. We used the food bank in the early days, while Mum got back on her feet. Later, I went to football club there, which was great fun, and most importantly it was free – otherwise I would have never been able to go.’
The gang discussing how to cook a meal for eight people:
‘What are you making?’ I asked the boys. ‘Can I help?’
‘Err… I was thinking of going to the chicken shop down the road and getting a couple of those family buckets. Either that or pizza.’
‘Why only those two options?’
‘Because I don’t have that much cash,’ said Frixos, looking slightly embarrassed. He dug his hand in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled ten pound note.
‘What if we spent the money on ingredients and cook something?’
‘Like what? There’s no way that we would be able to afford it. Not to fill up that many people anyway. There would be eight of us.’
‘OK, what if I prove to you that you could?’
‘Ah, she wants a challenge!’ said Sam, rubbing his hands together. ‘Frixos, let her do it.’
So we went to the supermarket, and the boys watched in awe, as I bought ingredients for dinner which came to a total of £9.10. We laid them out in Frixos’ kitchen and everyone helped me cook.
‘Cool. So we’re going to call this dish Frixos’s Feast,’ I said, because you’re our host. ‘It’s a version of fish paella – a Portuguese dish that my mum likes to make.’
The pandemic has had a huge impact on food insecurity, with as many as 2.3 million children affected. So through my book, as well as telling a good story, I wanted to highlight the importance of community and to show children that they should never be afraid to ask for help when they need it.
I hope that children, parents and teachers enjoy reading The Cooking Club Detectives just as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Ewa Jozefkowicz grew up in Ealing and studied English Literature at
UCL. Her debut novel The Mystery of the Colour Thief, published by
Zephyr in 2018, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book
Prize. Her second book Girl 38: Finding a Friend blends contemporary
times with WWII Poland. And The Key to Finding Jack explores sibling
bonds. Ewa has worked for a school support service for many years and
has been a governor at an inner London primary school. She lives in
North London with her family.
The Cooking Club Detectives is a heart-warming, insightful mystery centring on friendship, family and community that completely captured me as I was caught up in the tenderly portrayed relationships, and in the very satisfying mystery.
Erin has moved to the village of Milwood and is living in a flat with her mum, Lara. Both Erin and her Mum have a shared love of cooking; her Mum writes recipes with a twist that can be easily made on a budget.
When exploring the area, Erin finds herself drawn to an old ramshackle house which is used as community centre, Skipton House. This place is to become an important part of her life as she finds herself joining the Cooking Club being held there with her new friends, Tanya, Frixos and Sam. It is not long before rumours of Skipton House closing down are proved true which devastates the friends as the community centre is pivotal in providing support to families who rely on its facilities, including Music Breakfast Clubs, a food bank, creche, dance and sports as well as hosting their Cooking Club.
These are young people who care about their community and each other, who are empathetic and kind-hearted, so they are determined to solve the mystery of who has bought Skipton House and why. They form The Cooking Club Detectives and are soon drawing up a list of suspects and beginning their investigations … Erin’s adorable new puppy, Sausage, proves a brilliant accomplice as he proves an irresistible distraction to any suspect. Will they be able to track down the new owner of Skipton House and, if they do, convince him or her that it is much too important to be taken from the local community? I really enjoyed how the children worked together and supported each other in finding clues and how they involved others to help which really added to the sense of a community coming together.
This story has important and sensitively portrayed messages relating to food poverty and online bullying. Erin and her Mum know what it is like to have to survive on a tight budget and have a keen interest in budget-friendly cooking, something that Erin is eager to share with her friends. Her Mum has had a life-long dream to become a chef and, when Erin helps her set up a Cooking Blog, she finds herself the victim of online bullying. Erin’s friend, Sam, lives with his mother and Grandma who have relied on the Breakfast Club, food bank and creche at Skipton House, so he intrinsically understands the importance of the Centre to the well-being of the community. All of these elements are perfectly woven into the mystery to sprinkle it with tantalising clues, and to give a real sense urgency in solving it.
The openness and genuineness of the friendship between Erin, Tanya, Sam and Frixos is just gorgeous. Their support of each other, team work and empathy is incredibly refreshing and made me really care about what happened to them. They also show great perseverance as they eliminate suspects and continue to follow their detective trail with ingenuity.
I loved the relationship between Erin and her Mum. They clearly have a very close bond and a shared love of cooking. The recipes that they make together are sprinkled throughout the story, making them perfect to try out during, or after reading. I’ve had a go at Eggsquisite Egglets (yummy) and definitely intend to try Erin’s Banana Bread Bonanza.
I think this quote from Sam’s Grandma perfectly sums up many of the characters in this story, and is a great message for everyone:
My grandma always says that a winner is a loser who tried one more time.
This is an important and relevant story for today’s society, wrapped up in an engaging mystery, that is told with real heart and warmth, and provides a perfect opportunity to open discussion around food poverty, online bullying and the importance of community.
Please do check out the other stops on the Blog Tour: