Shawn Amos’s debut middle grade novel, Cookies & Milk, feels as warm and cozy as a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. Seriously, it will give you cravings—thankfully, there is a recipe in the back!
The worst summer EVER
It’s the summer of 1976, and Ellis Johnson has no desire to spend his summer in his dad’s crappy new bungalow with all the other divorced dads and their sad sons. He starts to dread it even more when his dad pitches his next million-dollar business idea: the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. The last thing Ellis wants to do is spend his entire summer working!
They have six weeks until opening day and three tasks to complete: perfect their recipe, fix up their ramshackle storefront, and find customers. But teamwork and communication are not things that Ellis and his dad are too skilled at.
As the summer gets rolling, Ellis actually starts to enjoy himself. He still gets to play his harmonica and hang with his best friend, all while making new friends along the way. Then it turns out that one of these new friends is actually someone from his dad’s past… Someone he doesn’t want to tell Ellis about.
Whenever I describe this book to other readers, I keep using the adjectives “adorable” and “wholesome,” because that is exactly what it is. At the center of this novel is a strained relationship between a father and a son. In Ellis’s eyes, his father can do nothing right. Because of his harebrained business ideas, Ellis’s mother finally broke down and left him, breaking their family apart. Now Ellis is left alone with a dad who he feels doesn’t understand him at all.
The tension between these two at the beginning of the novel feels very real, and full of real pain. But the hard set-up only makes their coming together at the end feel more earned. I loved reading a middle grade novel that tackles the realistic issues that many middle school kids face every day. I can gladly say that I now have a novel to recommend to any kid I know who’s struggling.
Surfers, grandmas, DJs, oh my!
In addition to Ellis and his dad, this book bursts with fun, colorful characters! My personal favorite is the teenage surfer Ellis meets on the train who becomes the number one fan of his cookies, but we also get to meet a sassy grandma, a smooth radio DJ, and so many more. They all felt both realistic and larger than life at the same time, which is perfect for a good middle grade cast!
Cookies & Milk is a sweet, short read that you will instantly want to devour. Pick it up today—and a box of cookies while you’re at it—and enjoy!
Cookies & Milk was released on May 17, 2022.