RECIPE FOR DISASTER
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9
Written and Illustrated by Jim Benton
Simon & Schuster BYR 3/01/2020
116 Pages Age 6—10
Genre: Children’s Chapter Book, Fiction
Themes: Baking, Inventing, Art & Music Classes
Franny K. Stein isn’t a good baker. But when she sees that the fundraiser for the art and music departments at school aren’t making enough money, she sets out to create the Most Delicious Muffin on Earth! But bad things can happen when people become exposed to the best thing they’ve ever tasted. They become . . . overenthusiastic. (from back cover)
“The Stein family lived in the pretty pink house with the lovely purple shutters down at the end of Daffodil Street. Everything about the house was bright and cheery.”
Why I like Recipe for Disaster (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9)
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist IS BACK and in the kitchen!
Franny’s friends (Mona and Vincent) hold a bake sale to raise funds for the art and music departments, which get short-changed in the school’s budget. After convincing Franny that art and music is as important as math and science, she decides to help by baking muffins. Franny is a great scientist and inventor, but, unfortunately, she is a terrible baker. Determined to succeed, Franny uses the school’s old furnace (a “new” old broken item perfect for repurposing), to build a robotic baker (Muffin Man). She then downloads every recipe known to man into the robot’s brain.
Muffin Man is a great success, making muffins no one can resist. The fundraiser does much better than expected, giving the art and music departments money they need for supplies and instruments. Problem is, no one is creating art with those supplies or playing music with those instruments. Everyone, including kids from other schools, have become hooked on Muffin Man’s muffins. Soon it gets out of hand. Kids are no longer in class, eating lunch, or even in the school building. Franny must stop the Muffin Man before everyone’s muffin cravings become muffin addictions.
Recipe for Disaster is the ninth book in the Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist series. It is a short, 116-page chapter book perfect for kids who like humorous stories, strong female protagonists, and interesting characters. With fifteen short chapters, Recipe for Disaster is the perfect bedtime story when read one chapter at a time. In two-weeks you can start a new Franny K. Stein book (unless you have read them all, in which case re-read the series and watch Franny grow up and become a better problem-solver). The story is told in past tense by a narrator. All the characters are amazing, including Franny’s lab assistant, Igor, a lab-poodle-Chihuahua-spaniel-shepherd-beagle mix breed dog with a bit of a “weaselly non-dog” critter included in his DNA. Igor is an unusual canine. He has hobbies (paints, dances, gymnastics, and fashion modeling), and occasionally takes off for parts unknown (but like the good dog he is, Igor always returns home).
Recipe for Disaster highlights the lack of art and music classes in elementary and middle schools. “Back-in-the-day” schools required music and art classes; considered part of a complete liberal arts education. Now, as Franny’s friends point out, schools that still have those departments rarely get the funding needed to properly teach those classes. The muffin-craving can easily translate into the drugs today’s kids are introduced to, with some using, and some becoming addicted. Stopping the kids’ muffin addiction is much like helping a drug addiction. Both recoveries take someone determined and informed to help those addicted. Franny is that person for the muffins.
Parents can relax. Recipe for Disaster is mostly a funny, light-hearted story about muffins, art, music, inventions (by repurposing items), helping your friends, and muffins—LOTS of muffins! Chapters easily flow from one to the next and are short enough for reluctant readers to enjoy. As a female protagonist, Franny shows girls they can be an inventor, a scientist, an engineer, or any other STEM career. Franny is not perfect, nor would I want her to be. Instead, Franny is confident, sure she can handle baking (a recipe is simply a list of directions, whether in a lab or a kitchen, right?).
Unexpectedly, mad scientist and superb inventor Franny fails at baking. Instead of getting down on herself, she thinks of a different way to handle the problem of baking muffins. She shows an ability to see problems from more than one angle, with solutions based on her observations. Franny’s muffin solution works—exceedingly well! Later, Franny must find a way to dial back her robotic chef.
Jim Benton is also the illustrator. His art is cute. The kids have largish eyes and expressive faces. Igor is an exceptional character; boys not interested in identifying with Franny can look to Igor, or even the Muffin Man; both have redeeming qualities. Igor is as determined as his human (Franny). Igor is also creative, physically active, and a helping friend to other dogs. These great attributes are wonderful examples for anyone wanting to live an interesting, fulfilling life.
Recipe for Disaster is another winning Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist story for kids reading on their own but not yet ready for middle grade books. Reluctant readers will love the short chapters and parents who like to read longer bedtime stories to their child can read Recipe for Disaster over two-weeks, chapter-by-chapter. Recipe for Disaster (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9) should prove to be a library favorite for age 6 to 10.
Illustrations Rendered in pen, ink, and watercolor.
Available at Amazon: Recipe for Disaster (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9)
RECIPE FOR DISASTER (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #9). Copyright © 2020 by Jim Benton. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division), New York, NY.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kids Lit Review. All Rights Reserved
[781-word count—review only]
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NEXT UP: MG – Ria Bel: Dog of War (New York Review Children’s Collection) by Sheila Burnford – NYRB-Kids 
AND THEN: PB – My Mummy is a Monster: My Children are Monsters by Natalie Reeves Billing & Lisa Williams