Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he’ll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad’s sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad’s latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.
But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT—get it together—and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.
Like eating a good chocolate chip cookie, you can’t read this book without smiling.
For those who might not have noticed, this book is written by Shawn Amos. AMOS! As in ‘Famous Amos Cookies’! I love Famous Amos cookies! I used to buy them from this one vending machine where I vacationed as a kid, and they made me so happy. I even purchased a forty-two-bag case of them at Costco once. That thing lasted forever! Anyway, this book is loosely based on Shawn Amos’s own experiences growing up as the son of Wally “Famous” Amos.
There are so many great side characters. My favorite character was Cosmo, a surfer dude who Ellis meets when giving out free cookie samples. Imagine Crush the turtle from ‘Finding Nemo’ in human form. Every word out of this man’s mouth made me smile. I really hope this man is based on someone Shawn Amos knows.
I love the 70’s setting. Back when people listened to music on vinyl records played on record players and a telephone was a big contraption attached to the wall by a long cord. It’s good for kids to learn about what life was like before everything could be done on a small tablet that fits in your hand.
Heads up. There are a few mild moments of racism, the biggest being when a drunk guy calls Ellis and his dad a slur word. Not the N-word, a different word. Some people might also have a problem with Ellis’s grandmother yelling, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!” I thought her saying that was hilarious.
Sidenote: I’d like to mention the foreshadowing of future events sprinkled throughout the story. The one that stuck out the most to me was when someone said this:
“Someday all the music is gonna be up in the clouds. We’ll just say the name of a song out loud and it’ll play. Hey Cece, play the Jackson 5!”
“She’s the lady in the clouds playing me any song I want.”
For reasons I can’t explain, this cracked me up.
I highly recommend listening to the audiobook for the narrator’s voice alone. The audiobook is narrated by none other than “The Reverend Shawn Amos,” a.k.a. the man who wrote the book. He had so much expression in his voice. I loved his voice so much that I listened to the ending credits just so I could hear him talk more. Additional background sounds include blues music, harmonica playing, the sparky pop pop before the music plays on a vinyl record, and a few sudden THWACKS that scared the heck out of me.
The best part of this book is the ‘The Finest in Chocolate Chip Cookies since 1976’ recipe at the back of the book. I knew I had to make these cookies. I wanted to know if the pecans would make them taste better. I didn’t add the pinch of shredded coconut because I don’t like coconut. I had so much fun making these cookies! I rolled out the dough and pinched off bits like they did in the story. I ended up with 72 bite-sized cookies that I shared with my family and neighbors. I’m definitely making these again. Next time I’ll add the shredded coconut to see if there’s a difference.