Krisp_Anyone But Ivy Pocket

**Middle Grade Readers

As a mother of four who is keen to do everything within her most humble power to ensure that her children grow up with a love of reading, happening upon a book like Anyone But Ivy Pocket is something akin to discovering a jewel-filled treasure chest in the backyard.

It’s unexpected and, to borrow a phrase from Ivy Pocket herself, monstrously exciting.

Ivy is wrong in all the right kind of ways. A 12 year-old maid with next-to-no tact and a very big opinion of herself, she’s an unlikely heroine who you just know is going to get herself into lots of trouble.

And she does. When the dying Duchess of Trinity summons Ivy to her bedside and offers her 500 pounds if she will deliver the very rare and rather magical Clock Diamond to England and put it around the neck of the revolting Matilda Butterfield on her twelfth birthday, how can Ivy refuse?

From here Ivy is swept up into an adventure of mystery, intrigue and the odd raw potato. Her Clock Diamond quest involves funny little men in flowing brown cloaks and a shriveled up Governess who is not quite what she seems. Then there’s that revolting Matilda Butterfield…

There’s lots to love about Anyone But Ivy Pocket. For a start it’s enchantingly illustrated hard-back cover instantly makes you want to open it up and dive on in. Once you have, Ivy and her quirky narration of the story place you right in the centre of all the madcap mayhem.

I note comparisons are already being made between this and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, a series that stretched to 13 books. Indeed, at the end of Anyone But Ivy Pocket there is no doubt left in the reader’s mind that Ivy has many more adventures in her. My guess is she’s set to win a legion of dedicated fans.

Anyone But Ivy Pocket is recommended for ages 9-11. My 10 year-old began reading it last night and continued to do so over breakfast this morning. Just quietly, I think Ivy might already have won her.

degoldi-10pm questionTwelve-year-old Frankie is the youngest child in his family. He’s also the one who holds all of the pieces of it together. His anxiety makes him worry about the flat batteries in the fire-alarm, the lack of change for bus money, and the dwindling food supplies in the house. When the stress becomes too much – which is often – he consults his mother about the things that keep him up at night.

Every evening at 10pm, she is ready for the questions about his rash (is it cancer?), about the cat (might he give the family worms?) and about the health of the kids at school (could Frankie catch something off them?). Ma is the only comfort Frankie knows when life becomes too frightening.

But he is growing up and with Sydney, the new girl at school, asking all sorts of uncomfortable questions about Frankie’s family – and about his mother in particular – it might just be time for Frankie to face up to the reality of his family life. No matter how terrifying it might be.

The 10pm Question is a sweet novel that is aimed at middle grade students, but is relevant to a much wider age-group. Exploring themes of friendship, family and the uncertainty of growing up, this novel delves into difficult issues with warmth and care.

With anxiety being a huge problem for children – and for their parents – it’s good to see a novel acknowledge the matter in an engaging way that takes into account the complexities of the issue. This isn’t a social problem novel by any means. All of the characters in 10pm Question are multifaceted with their own thoughts and goals and ways of dealing with things. Frankie suffers from sometimes debilitating anxiety, but is no less human for that. He’s not a vehicle for a story about anxiety. He’s an intelligent child with a range of interests that include birds, drawing, language and sport. He has friends and can socialise with ease. He is also prone to blocking out things that he doesn’t want to see.

Frankie’s friends and family are just as well-rounded as he is. They have their own ways of dealing with the abnormalities in their families and lives – not all of them healthy. It’s in seeing how these flawed and complex characters interact with each other that 10pm Question really shines. By exploring the relationships Frankie has with the other characters, De Goldi emphasises that a person suffering anxiety is no more or less flawed than anyone else.

10pm Question is one of those books that is a good read for a myriad of reasons. It’s funny, has some amazing characters, and it follows the kinds of characters that chose their own path. Aside from that though, it’s the kind of book that will be a delight for readers who empathise with Frankie’s worries. It doesn’t promise miracle cures – but explores some valid issues in an understanding and positive way.


10pm Question – Kate De Goldi

Longacre Child (2008)

ISBN: 9781877460203

grandin-ThinkingInPicturesNewIn 1947, there was no name for autism.

In her early years Temple Grandin had doctors completely stumped, and kids who were mentally ‘challenged’ in that era would ordinarily be institutionalised. Her mother was adamant; this wouldn’t be the fate of her daughter. She spent many years going through psychological testing, therapy and analysis. Speech therapy helped her to be able to communicate, but it’s still a constant challenge for Dr Grandin to assimilate with the world in her public life.

Spending a holiday on a farm with family members when she was a young girl was a pivotal moment for this extraordinary woman. Temple discovered she could empathise with the livestock far better than she could with her fellow man.

So, her name may be somewhat familiar to you. She’s known as one of the first autistic people to write an autobiography, and is a world renowned animal behaviourist.

In the US, she helped to revolutionize the abattoir industry. Creating a far more humane situation for beasts meant a better product, and by achieving this brought great respect from those in positions of power.

There’s a great BBC documentary, The woman who thinks like a cow, and a HBO film on Dr. Grandin if you want to see more, and numerous books of both autism and animal behaviours if you want to read more.

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Hardcover, 206 pages

Published April 30th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)

ISBN0547636458 (ISBN13: 9780547636450)



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnSo, a couple of weeks ago, the most fabulous Marianne de Pierres made a request for Cook Club. MdP doesn’t make too many requests. In fact, I pretty much get to do whatever I want for this column. So, of course, I agreed.

Cheesecake. Cheesecake! Of course, why hadn’t I thought of doing one before now? Well, that would probably be because…shock, horror…I’ve never made one. Okay, there was that fairly disastrous attempt for Christmas dessert about 18 years ago, but otherwise – nope. Cheesecake virgin. For a first real attempt, I’m happy with the result, though I’ll make some changes next time (see note at end of this post). It was demolished by my family, who are honest – if at times, harsh! – critics of anything new that comes out of my kitchen.

 cheesecake 2 2

What You Need:

I used a 22cm spring-form cake tin for this recipe.

Butter to prepare the tin.



350g Arnott’s Nice biscuits, which is about a pack and a half.

175g butter, melted.



3 x 250g packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature.

¾ cup of caster sugar.

1 teaspoon of lemon zest.

2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Zest of 1 lime.

Juice of 1 lime.

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

1 tablespoon of plain flour.

3 large eggs.



2 packets of passionfruit flavoured jelly crystals.

Cream for whipping (or err, if you’re slack and in a hurry and can’t find your piping bag… use the fizzy tinned stuff. Not that I’d know about that. Nope.)


How it’s Done:

Prepare your spring-form pan by greasing it with butter. You can line it with baking paper as well, but I didn’t bother. Then, break up your Nice biscuits and add them to your blender. Give them a quick blend until they resemble breadcrumbs. Slowly add the melted butter. Using your fingers and the back of a spoon, push the biscuit/butter mix over the base and up the sides of the pan, trying to keep as much of a uniform thickness as possible. I had a little mix left over. Refrigerate.

Pre-heat your oven to 175 C, or if you have a fan-forced oven like me, drop the temperature to 160 C. Using an electric mixer (I have a KitchenAid stand mixer. Best. Kitchen Toy. Ever.) on low speed, beat cream cheese and caster sugar until blended. Add the lemon and lime zests and juices, along with vanilla. Mix well. Then add the flour and blend again. Add the eggs one at a time, being careful not to overbeat. Remove prepared crust from the fridge and pour the cheese mixture into it.

Before you put your cheesecake into the oven (middle shelf), add a small bowl of warm tap-water to the bottom shelf. This is to help the crust from drying out too much. Bake for aprox. 35 minutes, or until the centre is *almost* set. Remove from oven and cool completely before carefully removing the rim. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.

While your baked cheesecake is chilling, mix jelly as per packet instructions. Once set, chop roughly with a butter knife and spoon onto the top of your cheesecake. Add passionfruit pulp and decorate with whipped cream around the edges – it hides a multitude of sins! If you do (ahem) use the canned whipped cream, remember it does tend to dissolve quickly.

Confessions: Next time, I’m going to bake cheesecake for 25 to 30 mins rather than the full 35, as it was a teeny bit dry. My oven also has ‘hot spots’, and I had to be careful it didn’t bake faster on one side than the other. I also found I had nowhere near enough mixture compared to how high up the tin I’d made my crust, which is why I added the layer of jelly, rather than just candied citrus like I’d originally planned. I will however, be making it again soon after such a great reaction from my family.

Looking forward to seeing how your versions turn out, Cook Clubbers!


Krista McKeeth reviews Altered by Gennifer Albin


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