A Spoonful of Time by Flora Ahn
Publication Date: April 11, 2023
Summary from NetGalley:
When You Reach Me meets Love Sugar Magic in this unforgettable middle grade novel where time travel, family recipes, and family secrets collide.
Maya’s grandmother, Halmunee, may be losing her memory, but she hasn’t lost her magic touch in the kitchen. Whether she serves salty miyeok-guk or sweet songpyeon, her stories about Korea come to life for Maya.
Then one day, something extraordinary happens: one delicious bite transports Maya and Halmunee into one of Halmunee’s memories. Suddenly they’re in Seoul, and Halmunee is young.
This is just the first of many secrets Maya will uncover: that she and her grandmother can travel through time. As Maya eats her way through the past, her questions multiply—until a shocking discovery transforms everything she thought she knew about family, friendship, loss, and time itself.
Brimming with heart and interspersed with seven family recipes that readers can make themselves, this is a story to savor by rising Korean American author Flora Ahn.
ARC provided by Quirk Books via Netgalley for an honest review.
This was a fun and delightful middle grade novel with endearing characters and an interesting way to time travel. I really liked the connection to food and memories and was delighted to find easy recipes for many of the foods made and eaten in the book. I think kids will find this a very fun and charming book.
Maya is a typical kid with typical kid problems. She doesn’t have a dad, but lives with her mom and Halmunee. She also has a solid best friend who is always there to help her and support her when things get a bit tough. The family dynamics felt realistic, Maya and her mom have been going through a rough patch with her mom working all of the time and not really being there, but it is handled well and when they do speak they are as honest as they can be with each other. Maya has a good relationship with her Halmunee and I loved the cooking scenes with her.
Jada, Maya’s best friend, and Jeff (a boy she meets as she time travels) were well done characters and both of them are pretty well fleshed out. I really liked Jada and how supportive she was even when she got frustrated with Maya for not holding up her part of a school project. Jeff was such a cute dork, but he was able to explain the time travel to Maya in a way that made sense. He also taught her a few things that Maya’s grandmother either didn’t know or wouldn’t tell her.
I really liked the main time travel plot. Food is a great conduit for memories, both good and bad. This time travel is a bit different in that they don’t interact with anyone, but really just go and watch a memory. As stated in the book, it is sort of like watching a movie. The pacing was a tad slow at times, but there were some really good plot twists at the end. The only issue I had was that throughout most of the book Maya and her mother think that Halmunee has dementia. I loved how that was handled. But then it is revealed that this wasn’t really the cause of her memory issues and that sort of didn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure how a kid who has a loved one with dementia would react to how this was resolved. But with in the story her issues made sense with the big twist at the end.
I think this will be a popular book with kids who enjoy stories about other cultures and food. I loved the different time travel aspect of the book and the loving relationships between all of the characters.