The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes: The Super Spy / Sky

These are both additions to popular, established series: thanks to the publishers for sending them for review:

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes: The Super Spy
Brenda Gurr
New Frontier Publishing

With cooking programmes on TV as popular as ever, I’m sure there are many young aspiring Zinnia Jakes, aka Zoe who will relish this the third in the series about baking and the challenges it presents to nine-year-old Zoe, her best friend Addie, her Aunt Jam a musician, and Coco the seemingly magical cat that appears at specific times, some of which are exceedingly inconvenient.

In this story we find Zoe coping with the annoying shenanigans of the moggy especially when it invades lessons, the forthcoming school sleepover for Year 4 and the challenge of making a fabulous spy-themed Cake for the Parents’ Association party this coming weekend.

On receiving the cake request sent as usual to Zinnia Jakes, Zoe’s mind immediately goes into over-drive; but how will she manage delivering a cake in secret without revealing the identity of Zinna Jakes, especially as Aunt Jam will be otherwise engaged? Perhaps her dad might help as he’s going to be at home on the night of the sleepover, so he tells Zoe.

First though Zoe has to decide on a design for the cake and with suggestions from Jam, Addie, not to mention Coco, she finally settles on a combination of their ideas.

However, things begin to go downhill when she received news from her dad -he’s been delayed; and then she overhears one of the organiser’s mention of spy traps – supposed to be part of the fun but not of course for Zinnia. Is her identity after all, destined to be discovered?

Full of surprises, this tale of teamwork and friendship, determination and resilience will go down especially well with younger readers of chapter books; it would also make a good, short read-aloud for KS1 classes. Don’t miss the recipe for a ‘hidden secret cake’ at the end of the story.

Sky
Holly Webb, illustrated by Jo Anne Davies
Little Tiger

This is the latest in the author’s Winter Animal series that have a time slip and a creature linking the two periods.

When Lara and her parents arrive in the Scottish Highlands to spend the Christmas holidays with her grandparents, she’s surprised when Grandad tells her of a snowy owl he’s seen. Then both Lara and Grandad spot her again and despite the snow that’s fallen overnight, Lara insists on going out the next day in the hope of seeing the bird again; and see Sky as she names the white bird, she does. It leads her all the way to the Big House before disappearing but Lara notices that the Christmas tree in its window has real candles burning brightly.

The following morning, Lara is drawn back to the house and as she approaches, there at the edge of the driveway, she comes upon a sobbing girl in a long white dress lying on the snowy ground.

A girl from another era who says her name is Amelia and is surprised that Lara is dressed in, as she calls her trousers and jacket, ‘boys’ clothes’. Lara in turn is amazed at Amelia’s ‘old-fashioned, fancy clothes’ especially her underwear that she sees when Amelia takes her into her bedroom in the big house. Now Lara is convinced that, thanks to that magical owl, she’s gone back in time.

With lots of lovely black-and-white illustrations by Jo Anne Davies, this is a gorgeous wintry tale that primary readers, especially animal lovers will adore, either around Christmas, or really, at any time.

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