You’d think Olivia Boone worked in a Japanese restaurant the way she whipped up sushi.
But the 12-year-old used Swedish Fish instead of tuna, Rice Krispie treats instead of rice, Fruit Roll-Ups instead of seaweed, Twizzlers instead of vegetables and candy sprinkles instead of fish eggs.
Green cake icing doubled as wasabi.
“It’s like a condiment,” explained Jessalyn Ludwig, 24, youth services assistant at Glen Carbon Centennial Library. “It’s really, really hot.”
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Jessalyn leads the library’s Cook-A-Book Club. Kids meet once a month to discuss food-centered books, then they make the food.
“The purpose is to promote literacy,” Jessalyn said. “Kids love food. You provide food and kids come. But I also want them to be creative and use their imaginations.”
The club has two sessions on the fourth Saturday of each month, discussing an age-appropriate book for grades 3-5 in the morning and grades 6-8 in the afternoon.
Olivia was skeptical when her grandmother signed her up.
“I was like, ‘Is this just a regular book club where you read a book and sit around and talk about it for an hour?’” she said. “Ugh.”
But the sixth-grader at Grigsby Middle School in Granite City and her sister, Sophia, 10, agreed to give it a try.
The first session, they made cupcakes and discussed Katherine Littlewood’s book “Bliss,” which takes place in a bakery. Next came “Killer Pizza” by Greg Taylor.
“I found out (the book club) was much more enjoyable than it sounded,” Olivia said. “It’s more like a food and art class.”
In March, the morning group discussed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl.
The afternoon group read “The Candymakers” by Wendy Mass. It’s the story of four 12-year-olds who enter a contest at the Life is Sweet candy factory.
Parts of the book made the Boone sisters cry. One involved contestant Logan Sweet, the factory owner’s son, who had been scarred as a small child in an accident involving hot chocolate.
“I like this book,” Jessalyn said. “It teaches a lot about building character, not jumping to conclusions, and being open to new experiences, how friendships form and develop and how they can be rekindled.
“It also introduces the idea of diversity and different levels of ability and how people want to be seen for who they are rather than just their disabilities.”
Beyond the book, the kids also talked about their favorite treats at home.
“I like chocolate and anything sour,” said Andre Wilke, 13, a seventh-grader at Liberty Middle School in Edwardsville. “Sometimes my family imports (Jaffa Cakes and Curly Wurlys) from England.”
Jessalyn got the idea to make candy sushi from the Internet. She provided the ingredients and let the kids do their own thing with them.
Andre’s 8-year-old sister, Aurora, attended Cook-A-Book’s morning session. Their father had just applied for a library card and looked into kids programming.
“I want to do anything that will help them out in school,” said John Wilke, 39, of Glen Carbon.