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Close to Famous Hardcover – February 3, 2011

113 customer reviews

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Close to Famous + Hope Was Here (Newbery Honor Book) + Almost Home
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Twelve-year-old Foster McFee and her mother leave Memphis in the middle of the night, fleeing the mother’s abusive boyfriend. Foster has a severe learning disability, a pillowcase full of mementos of her dead father, and a real gift for baking. When she and her singer mother relocate to a tiny, rural West Virginia town, they discover a friendly and welcoming population of delightfully quirky characters. Foster finally learns to read from a reclusive, retired movie star; markets her baked goods at Angry Wayne’s Bar and Grill; helps tiny but determined Macon with his documentary; and encourages her mother to become a headliner rather than a backup singer, all the while perfecting her baking technique for the time when she gets her own cooking show like her TV idol, Sonny Kroll. Bauer gently and effortlessly incorporates race (Foster’s mother is black; her father was white), religion, social justice, and class issues into a guaranteed feel-good story that dodges sentimentality with humor. Readers who want contemporary fiction with a happy ending will find it here. Grades 5-8. --Debbie Carton

About the Author

Joan Bauer is the author of nine previous novels for young readers, among them the Newbery Honor Book, Hope Was Here, and the Los Angeles Times Prize winner, Rules of the Road.  She has also twice received the Christopher Award, as well as the Schneider Family Book Award and the Golden Kite Award. Joan Bauer lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 540L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (February 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670012823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670012824
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.9 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It's like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I'm working on a book and laughing while I'm writing. Then I know I've got something." Joan's first novel, Squashed, won the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Five novels for young adult readers have followed: Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road (LA Times Book Prize and Golden Kite), Backwater and Hope was Here (Newbery Honor Medal). Joan lives in Darien, CT with her husband and daughter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You know how some authors are so reliably good that you simply buy their next book on auto-pilot, sight unseen? Joan Bauer is on that list for me. In my experience, this author's books are always feel-good reads, without falling into the trap of being overly sentimental.

When the story begins, Foster McFee and her mother are on the run from Mom's abusive boyfriend, an Elvis impersonator. They find shelter in a small town where someone kind gives them a tow, someone else gives Mrs. McFee a job, and the tow truck people then offer them a place to stay.

As for Foster, she is incredibly talented as a self-taught young cook, especially when it comes to baking. Unfortunately, she is incredibly un-talented at reading. In short, she can't read, though she covers it up like a champion.

Now, as Foster spends the summer making connections with people like a young would-be documentary filmmaker and the actress who's hiding out from the pain of her all-too-public dumping by a big-time Hollywood flame, she finds that her secrets are coming out. Another worry is the location of a certain pillowcase that contains the few items she has remaining after her soldier father's death in Iraq.

Will this young cupcake maker be able to get in touch with her hero, TV chef Sonny Kroll? Will Miss Charleena ever come out of her house again? Will Foster's mom be recognized as having a star's voice, not a backup singer's? Will Macon ever make a documentary about the new prison down the road? Will Foster learn to read?

Quite probably!

The learning-to-read subplot resonated with me because I have a dear friend who didn't learn to read till she was 18, faking it in all 11 of the schools her drug addict mother dumped her in for 10 years running.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By J.Prather TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Close to Famous is a nice feel good story that will hold special appeal for any 5th and 6th grader with a fondness for baking, and for any young girl who ever felt the sting of being unfairly judged. Foster is a baking whiz - what she lacks in reading ability she more than makes up for in kitchen creativity. She's still grieving over the death of her father and struggling to cope with a severe learning disability, when she and her mother are forced to flee their home to escape her mother's abusive boyfriend.

It's in Culpepper, West Virginia that Foster finds the confidence to believe in herself, to stop running away, and to face her learning disability head on. She finds people who are genuine, and wins them over with her forthright manner and her incredible cupcakes. This story is a quick read, and although it often errs on the side of over-sentimentality and predictability, any reader will be quick to find themselves cheering for Foster and her cupcakes. It's a story full of homespun humour and common sense philosophy that will firmly plant a smile on your face as you picture these characters that the author so ably spins to life.

It's always nice to read a story about a child who can overcome being labeled ("dumbest girl in Memphis") and succeed in learning the valuable lesson that we all have something important to offer the world. Lots of great lessons to be learned here both for kids who might face a learning disability of their own and also for all the kids who know someone that does. Recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on March 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a twelve-year old who could not read, Foster McFee faced quite some ridicule from other students, and even her teachers did little to hide their dissatisfaction and actually explore the nature of Foster's learning disability. So leaving Memphis and this painful stigmatism behind offered Foster some relief, even though she and her mom were fleeing from her mom's abusive boyfriend.

Their hurried escape led them to Culpepper, West Virginia, a small town with two claims to fame: a new state penitentiary that was supposed to bring new jobs to locals but did not, and an aging movie star who had gained as much notoriety for her husband's scandalous affair as for her own film achievements. These Culpepper features, together with a unique bunch of kind-hearted town folk, served as important ingredients in a sequence of events that taught Foster and her mom that they could afford to think big about their dream jobs in life.

Cleverly wrapped into this engaging story line are some important themes in economics related to public sector job creation, investments in human capital, and entrepreneurial talent. The latter shines through clearly when Foster sells her homemade cupcakes at the local diner and her reputation as an amazing baker quickly takes off. Making this substantive content so easy to digest is Joan Bauer's ability to touch a range of emotions in every chapter. This novel is definitely recommended reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Annette on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Foster is the kind of girl you really want to know right away, especially if you like baked goods. Her confections all sound delicious, but it's the care she takes and her little asides to the imaginary camera in her trailer kitchen, that make them so special. It's hard to write about a small town full of interesting characters without sounding trite and/or boring, but this book has it all--retired Hollywood star, escaped convict, Angry Wayne's Bar & Grill, a scary Elvis impersonator, and a wanna be film documentarian who has yet to get a camera. Reminiscent of IDA B, BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, SO B. IT--wonderful!
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