The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes: The Super Spy by Brenda Gurr, illustrated by Nancy Leschnikoff

Cover image by Nancy Leschnikoff, published by New Frontier Books UK

Regular readers of my blog will know how much value I place on books which give young readers the chance to become confident with their independent reading and at the same time discover the pure enjoyment to be found within the covers of a book. 

The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes is a series of early chapter books, written by Brenda Gurr with lovely illustrated chapter headers created by Nancy Leschnikoff, perfect for children of 7-9 years-of-age. This third book in the series, The Super Spy is my favourite yet, the enticing cover image providing a perfect illustration of the combination of delights to be found inside.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Zoe Jones appears to be an ordinary nine-year old schoolgirl…but she harbours a secret identity, for she is in fact none other than legendary baker Zinnia Jakes! Helping her to conceal her undercover baking persona are Aunt Jam, with whom she lives when her father is away on overseas food critic duties, best friend Addie and magical cat Coco! (I have my own theory about Coco and wonder if Brenda Gurr will reveal more about this fabulous feline in future books).

Zoe and Addie along with all their classmates are hugely excited about the class sleepover in the school library:

They were going to sleep in the library, surrounded by hundreds of books and stories galore…Zoe was certain she would have sweet dreams that night!

Additionally, Zinnia Jakes has been tasked with baking one of her fabulous creations for the Parents’ Association spy-themed party which will be held in the school hall on the same night! As Zoe and Addie research the history of spying at the local museum and work on the cake design their own espionage skills lead to the discovery that there will be spy-traps to outwit if they are to continue their modus operandi of mysterious Zinnia Jakes’ deliveries!

This story packs many mouth-watering ingredients into its 100 pages. There is an exciting and fast-moving plot; an enjoyable sense of peril; a friendship based on thoughtfulness and kindness; a lovely exploration of research, planning and creativity; a celebration of museums; the best range of cooking-based metaphors and similes I’ve ever seen and the sprinkling of magic and humour supplied by Coco’s antics. What’s more, once you’ve enjoyed the story there is a recipe so that you can try baking your own Super Spy cake!

I absolutely recommend Zinnia Jakes The Superspy as an addition to home and school bookshelves for independent readers of 7-9 and think that it would also work well as a class or group read, perhaps linked to a DT or cooking project. Publisher New Frontier has provided teacher notes which include the hidden picture cake recipe on this link. Check out the other books in the Zinnia Jakes series too; you can read my review of The Fabulous Cakes of Zinnia Jakes Book 1 here.

I am most grateful to New Frontier Publishing UK for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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