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*The Perfect Hamburger and Other Stories* by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Laura Rankin

Also by Alexander McCall Smith:

The Mystery of the Missing Lion: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

The Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case (A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers)

Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery

Max & Maddy and the Bursting Balloons Mystery

Akimbo and the Crocodile Man

Also written and/or illustrated by Laura Rankin:

Tiptoe Joe

Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie
The Perfect Hamburger and Other Stories
by Alexander McCall Smith, illustrated by Laura Rankin
Ages 7-10 149 pages Bloomsbury USA August 2007 Paperback    

The perfect hamburger, the best tasting spaghetti sauce, and hundreds of the tastiest doughnuts around are featured in Alexander McCall Smithís book The Perfect Hamburger and Other Stories. But what was the author thinking, not including the recipes at the end of each story (wink)!

To cheer up Mr. Borthwick, hamburger-lover Joe takes over the restaurant kitchen and the spice rack to make the best hamburger ever tasted. Quite certain that a taste of his perfect hamburger will revitalize Mr. Borthwickís dwindling customer base, Joe decides to make the hamburger again. Alas, replication isnít so easy when you werenít paying attention to ingredient amounts and no one knows where to find more of the diminishing vital ingredient. When Cassaroli, the famous, spice-knowledgeable chef, and Mr. Octavius, the worldís greatest food gourmet, fail to identify the crucial ingredient, Joe turns to the grocers. Fortunately, catalogue clues lead to old notebooks full of recipes - one being how to make the all-important ingredient. After reading advertisements in the newspapers announcing Mr. Borthwickís perfect hamburger, people in town leave the modern new Hamburger House in droves to give Mr. Borthwickís hamburgers another try. These perfect hamburgers must be pretty good, because Joe and Mr. Borthwick are shocked when they see who walks in the door for a taste of their creation.

Forget hamburgers; John and Nicky will never see that food pass their lips! This brother and sister duo has been subsiding on carrot soup and raw onions for far too long. While their parents are away studying volcanoes, John and Nicky are living with their Aunt Rebecca, a member of the Carrot and Nut League. Aunt Rebecca has John and Nicky following a very strict diet - one that doesnít include chips, chocolate cake, or even something healthy like spaghetti.

One hungry morning, luck comes in the form of a twenty-dollar bill and a friendly waiter. Nicky and John each have an unforgettable meal of spaghetti. Determined to experience the taste again, they decide to enter a spaghetti sauce contest. First prize is a spaghetti factory tour and a spaghetti meal. The wait is torturous for Nicky and John, but they hold out hope as they check the newspaper everyday for any news of the winner. When the winner is finally announced, itís bad news: their recipe didnít win. But thanks to their favorite chef, John and Nicky get the opportunity to tour the spaghetti factory anyway, and eat another spaghetti meal - six spaghetti meals, actually. As they tour the factory, they see shovels for the flour, and watering cans for the oil. They see spaghetti being hung to dry, and they get to make a special noodle of their own. Mr. Pipelli, the spaghetti factory owner, turns out to be a quick-thinking and entrepreneurial man. He gets John out of cable noodle mess, fixes the malfunctioning pasta machine from the inside, and his charming ways inspire Aunt Rebecca in the kitchen. Over many lunches of delicious - and newly colored - spaghetti noodles, not only does a love develop, but so does a more accepting attitude towards spaghetti.

Best friends Jim, Katie and Mark are going to have Saturday morning doughnut sales to raise funds for Mr. Pride, the janitor of their school. His much-loved car was stolen, and money is just too tight for the near-retirement aged Mr. Pride to buy a new car. Although Jim has some brilliant ideas, they fail to satisfy everyone. First people complain about the doughnut shortage. Is it their fault they sell out of doughnuts in fifteen minutes? Then Jimís email chain regarding sending doughnuts to his home address goes into an overdrive he cannot stop. Hundreds of doughnuts are soon complicating his life, compromising his space, and annoying his neighbors. The pigs are even turning up their noses at the surplus of doughnuts, and much to Jimís surprise, free doughnut signs only have a limited appeal. Jimís last hope is to convince the Supermarket King itís in everyoneís best interest that the doughnuts be sold in the Windram grocery stores. To meet Mr. Windram, the Supermarket King, Jim needs to be inventive. He needs to do some climbing; he needs to identify Mr. Windram by his shoes and finally, he needs to sneak a doughnut sample onto Mr. Windramís dinner plate.

These short stories are quite the appetite stirrers. Approximately fifty pages in length, each story makes for a quick pre-supper read. The descriptions are tasty, the characters thoughtful, the plots pages turners. Another hit for Alexander McCall Smith; another treat for us!
Beginning readers book reviews for developing, emerging and fluent readers

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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