Summary: The $150,000 Rugelach
The $150,000 Rugelach follows Jillian and Jack, two kids with opposing personalities and a shared love of food and cooking. Jillian’s mom died a year ago and her dad is working two jobs to keep them afloat after her mother’s restaurant closed. They’ve also had to move in with Jillian’s grandma, Rita. So when Jillian finds about a cooking competition hosted by major corporation CEO Phineas Farnsworth II, she thinks it’s a good opportunity to make money to help out the family. Jack is also hugely interested in the contest as Farnsworth is his role model. When the two kids are assigned as teammates, Jack’s loud attitude clashes with Jillian’s quieter personality, but even worse, the kids realize that Farnsworth has a more sinister plan for the contest than they could have imagined.
This was such a feel-good story. Granted, there are some somber moments as Jillian thinks back to her mom’s illness and death, but those are sprinkled in briefly throughout the story. I also liked Jack and Jillian’s friendship and the way they brought out the best in each other. Jillian’s grandma was a fun, loving character and I thought it was hilarious that she couldn’t cook to save her life.
Jewish culture and tradition play a huge role in this story as both Jillian and Jack are Jewish. Jillian’s famous chocolate rugelach also plays a significant role in the book — and we get a glimpse into Jack’s family history in the life of his Bubbe.
This book felt very British to me, even though it’s set in Ohio. There’s a whimsical Charlie and the Chocolate factory feeling where Farnsworth and his sinister character are concerned. I also enjoyed the story’s take on fame, milking grief for TV shows, and people’s rights to keep their stories to themselves.
The Not-So Good
A few parts of the story honestly required a suspension of my disbelief — especially the whole gimmick about love making food taste better. I also thought the inclusion of a fairy tale within the story was unnecessary.
Overall: The $150,000 Rugelach
The $150,000 Rugelach is a charming, entertaining, and moving middle grade book about Jewish culture, cooking, and dealing with grief. This story also spotlights a warm grandparent-grandchild relationship, a family dealing with financial struggles, and a fun sibling relationship. Some suspension of disbelief may be required to get through certain parts of the story, but it’s so feel-good, it’s worth it.