I try to look for the silver lining in any situation, so I’m going to say that a) at least these formulaic, saccharine chapter books get kids reading, and b) they introduce kids to the idea of being an entrepreneur/small business owner, which is an exciting career option that more and more young people are pursuing.
Once kids have devoured all the books in a certain cupcake series, here are a few similar options to tempt readers with.
Emma, Alexis, Katie and Mia are four middle school girls who push back against the popular girls at school by starting their own cupcake club / business empire. Each book in this insanely popular series is told from the perspective of one of the four girls, and the stories feature typical middle school experiences like friendship problems, crushes, school stress and parent troubles. There is one POC character in the club, the Hispanic character Mia, who moves into the series’ small town setting from the big city, but white characters still make up 75% of the club’s membership.
Another group of girls at another school start up their own cupcake club! Seriously, it’s pretty much the same premise as the Cupcake Diaries books, which should please fans of either series. Sadly, this series is not much better in terms of diversity – this time there are two slightly darker skin toned characters, Jenna and Sadie, but again these characters are only slightly darker in skin tone than the white characters. Where are the darker skin tones, the natural hair, the Asian girls, the First Nations girls, the autistic girls or the physically disabled girls, for that matter? Why can’t a girl in a wheelchair join a cupcake club?!
One thing I appreciate about this series is that it portrays a family dynamic that a lot of kids will likely be able to relate to. Hayley’s parents are recently divorced, her mother has lost her job, and she and her sister are forced to share a bedroom at their grandmother’s house, which has got everyone feeling down. Hayley relies on her baking to cheer everyone up, but eventually realizes that sometimes facing your problems head on is the only way to solve them.
This is actually a pretty sweet little series about two cousins who mean well, but who always seem to get themselves into and out of a series of messes. It’s a great option for a slightly younger audience that isn’t quite ready for middle school crushing-on-boys angst.
So apparently cupcakes are a small town thing? 12-year-old Isabel dreams of escaping her small town life and experiencing the big city, and a baking competition seems to be her ticket to New York City. But when her best friend also enters the competition, Isabel has to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to make her dreams come true.
I now challenge someone to write a cupcake series featuring a diverse cast of girls (and maybe even a boy – why should girls have all the fun?) who enjoy making cakes and being friends, and who work together to build a confectionery-based empire at their inner-city elementary school. Now that would be pretty sweet.