Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido

Hello, Aimee Lucido! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read. Thank you for stopping by to share Emma Trithart’s cover illustration and Celeste Knudsen’s cover design for Recipe for Disaster. There are so many wonderful details to take in: the notes on the fridge, the powder on Hannah’s apron, the tea kettle, the spatula, etc. Please take us on a tour of the cover. 

Aimee Lucido: Hi Mr. Schu! I’m so excited to be here today! And I’d love to take you on a cover tour because Emma and Celeste packed so much great stuff into it.

The first thing I love about this cover is the sense of chaos it exudes, which feels like a requirement for a book called Recipe for Disaster. And because so much of this book takes place in a kitchen, or includes food in some way, a chaotic kitchen scene—spilled flour, broken eggs, overflowing pots--perfectly encapsulates the tone of the book.

But what I really love about this cover, even more than just the general vibe of food and chaos, are the little details. As a reader, I’ve always enjoyed it when I look at a cover more closely as I read the book inside, and individual pieces of that cover start to take on new meanings. For example, the foods shown on the cover were not chosen by accident. The rolled-up cookies on the baking sheet are rugelach, the triangular cookies on the serving platters are hamentashen, and the braided bread is challah, all three of which are Jewish foods that appear at different points throughout the book.

The background details also take on deeper meanings as the book progresses: the bat mitzvah invitation, the picture of the gray-haired woman, the cookbook on top of the refrigerator, the chef’s hat… even the time displayed on the oven was chosen intentionally! I won’t spoil what all these symbols mean, though. You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Scenario: We are once again living in a time that allows us to visit schools. You’re standing in the center of a school library in Camden, Maine, surrounded by 200 5th graders. What would you tell them about Recipe for Disaster?

Aimee Lucido: When twelve-year-old Hannah’s best friend has her bat mitzvah—a Jewish rite of passage that often involves a big party and lots of presents—Hannah decides she wants one too. She’s Jewish, after all. At least… kind of. According to her grandmother anyway. But her parents don’t want Hannah to have a bat mitzvah. In fact, they don’t consider Hannah Jewish at all, and even worse, they’ve forbidden Hannah from so much as talking about Judaism in the house, though no one will tell her why. So, Hannah decides to go behind everyone’s back and secretly prepare for the coming-of-age ceremony she craves--without considering who she might hurt in the process.

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

Hannah Malfa-Adler is me. 

Sort of.

Hannah Malfa-Adler is a much braver, bolder, gutsier version of me. 

When I was a kid, I saw so many of my friends having bat mitzvahs—glamorous parties with giant piles of presents that always involved slow dances with cute boys—and I decided I wanted one too. I didn’t know why I wanted a bat mitzvah (besides wanting a fancy party with lots of presents and cute boys) but I knew I was Jewish and therefore was entitled to a bat mitzvah.

But my family didn’t practice Judaism in any formal way, and a bat mitzvah is far more than just a big party. Besides, my family couldn’t even agree on whether or not I was, in fact, Jewish. We never went to temple, we only celebrated the holidays that involved food and presents, and to this day I still have trouble remembering even the most basic prayers. As I grew up, I would always add a caveat onto the end of any sentence where I claimed Judaism for myself. “Well, I’m half Jewish,” I would say. “I mean… my mom is Jewish, but my dad’s not, and it’s not like I ever really went to temple or had a bat mitzvah or anything.” 

This is where the idea for Recipe for Disaster came from: what if I hadn’t let that stop me? What if I, at twelve-almost-thirteen years old, had been just a bit braver, a bit bolder, a bit gutsier, and decided I wasn’t going to listen to the people who told me I wasn’t Jewish enough? What if I decided I would do whatever it took to give myself a bat mitzvah?

Did you know that Recipe for Disaster contains actual recipes??

Emmy in the Key of Code tells the story of twelve-year-old Emmy whose whole life has been spent trying to live up to her musician parents’ legacy. Her father plays piano, her mother sings opera, but if there’s one thing that Emmy’s sure about it’s that her love of music doesn’t translate to being good at actually making music. No matter how many instruments she’s tried, she just can’t make the music in her body line up with the music in her head. But, when she moves to San Francisco for her dad’s job, she decides she’s not going to take music classes anymore, and winds up in a computer science class instead. 

To her surprise, she falls in love with it, and connects to it in the way she had always wished she had connected to music. Even better, she makes a new friend in the class, and discovers a new favorite teacher. But when a secret comes out about the teacher, Emmy wonders if she’s ever really going to fit in anywhere. Will she forever be a wrong note? Or will she someday be a part of the world’s most beautiful symphony?

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if Recipe for Disaster is written in verse just like Emmy in the Key of Code was!

Recipe for Disaster is actually a hybrid novel, with much of the story told in prose, but then breaking into poetry (and even poetry-esque recipes) at key points in the story. The first draft of Recipe for Disaster was actually written fully in verse, just like the final version of Emmy in the Key of Code is. But unlike with Emmy, Recipe didn’t want to be written fully in poetry. It wanted to be a mix. So that’s what it is in its final form! 

Look for Recipe for Disaster on September 14, 2021. 

Aimee Lucido is the author of EMMY IN THE KEY OF CODE and the upcoming RECIPE FOR DISASTER (Versify, Spring 2021). She's a software engineer who has worked at Google, Facebook, and Uber, and she got her MFA in writing for children and young adults at Hamline University. She lives with her husband in San Francisco where she likes to bake, run marathons, and write crossword puzzles.


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