In Sheila O’Connor’s middle grade book, Keeping Safe the Stars, three young kids use their resources and imagination to fend for themselves when Old Finn, their grandfather and legal guardian, suddenly falls ill. In hopes of raising enough money for bus tickets to see him in a Duluth hospital, they bake cookies and sell them, among other things.

I recommend this book for everyone. It is a touching story about survival, family, and using your resources. Sheila touches on the grieving process (the kids are orphans), being part of a KeepingSafetheStarsHIcommunity, and life in the 1970’s. Set amongst hippy communes, Nixon’s scandal, and rural poverty, three children, ages 13, 11, and 4 work hard to make sense of their world and take care of each other.

Sheila was planning on sending me her favorite cookie recipe to go with this book review, but she is on deadline and in seclusion. I can’t wait for her next book. She is a wonderful writer and an excellent teacher. She was here in the Brainerd lakes area this past winter teaching workshops on setting and character. I’m already using the ideas in my fiction.

I like oatmeal. I cook oatmeal for breakfast in the winter and eat it with a grapefruit. In the summer, I prefer cold cereal and toast. However, I bake my own bread using sour dough and use a cup of oatmeal in the recipe. I also make granola, which my boys’ friends say, “It’s just the best.” I found that recipe at The Amateur Gourmet. I’m sure the kids in Keeping Safe the Stars used a simple oatmeal cookie recipe, which most of you have, so I’ll include one from “The Lutheran Church” cookbook (where you know all the best recipes are kept) for Oatmeal Icebox Cookies. (You know this recipe has been around a while if they’re using the word icebox. We called them refrigerator cookies when I was a kid.)

1 cup shortening (Butter is better for the flavor)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour, scant (not sure what she means by that)
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
3 cups quick oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I think we used pecans.)

A nicely shaped cookie maybe made by lining ice cube trays with waxed paper and pressing the cookie dough into them. Level with the tops. Cover with waxed paper and freeze. May also be shaped into rolls. Slice and bake on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375-400 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Ethel Lorine

And, that’s all she wrote for directions on this recipe. Many of the recipes in this book simply list ingredients and mention baking times and temps. If they’re anything like my mom, it’s something like “Add flour until it feels right,” or “bake it until it looks right.” Even if they wrote down the actual directions, it is impossible to duplicate someone else’s food. Why? Because it’s made with different hands. (My boy Charlie said that one year in reference to chocolate chip cookies.)

What’s your favorite cookie?