Cookies & Milk
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Publishing Date: May 24, 2022
It’s a summer of family, friendship, and fun fiascos in this semi-autobiographical novel that’s as irresistible as a fresh-baked cookie.
Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he’ll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad’s sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad’s latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.
But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT—get it together—and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.
Partially based on Shawn Amos’s own experiences growing up the son of Wally “Famous” Amos in a mostly white area, and packed with humor, heart, and fun illustrations, this debut novel sings with the joy of self-discovery, unconditional love, and belonging.
A unique story of growing up in the mid-70s that is still relatable today – to both the young and the young at heart.
In Cookies and Milk, Shawn Amos relates the feel of the middle school years during the mid-1970s perfectly. His main character, Ellis Johnson, is looking forward to a great summer and turning 12, spending time with his best friend, Alex, listening to their favorite music, and just being kids. Didn’t we all, and wouldn’t we still? You can feel his disappointment and restlessness when things don’t go as planned.
I love how he was able to adapt and “get it together,” wanting to make his father’s dream come true but still being a little grumpy about the whole thing. His introduction to Wishbone was a great plotline, and I never expected where this eventually led, but it was an extremely satisfying surprise. I loved Grandma with her fearsome cane and intriguing slips of paper with the secret acronyms for Ellis and his father to puzzle out. And I so wanted everything to go right for his father from the very start. I enjoyed the supporting characters that arose out of the Sunset Boulevard neighborhoods. They were a great mix of people in various circumstances, and I loved that they formed a sort of “found” family.
My favorite part of the story was Ellis’s increased exposure to his family’s culture, something he really missed out on growing up in a primarily white neighborhood and school. He was at the perfect age to learn and soak up the views and lifestyles different from his small family. The author wonderfully conveyed Ellis’s excitement and the wonder he felt.
With its blend of historical fiction, life in the 70s, and family mystery, I recommend COOKIES AND MILK to middle-grade readers and those with an interest in music (contemporary of the time and the blues from even earlier decades), and since it is semi-autobiographical, to those who enjoy some excellent chocolate chip cookies.
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Shawn Amos is a world-renowned Blues musician who grew up the son of Wally Amos, aka Famous Amos: a pop culture icon, cookie mogul, and household name to this day. When Shawn’s not touring or recording as The Reverend Shawn Amos, he works as a partner at NYC communications firm Hudson Cutler. He is also a divorced father of three children, with whom he enjoys baking. This is his first novel.
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