Award-winning authors team up on middle-grade mystery

Best friend duo works to solve baking competition puzzle in charming story

The Great British Bake Off meets a tween-friendly Knives Out in this fun and propulsive middle grade novel following two best friends who must solve the mystery behind a baking competition gone awry.

This sweet treat early readers are calling “completely sublime” comes from author buddies and Middle Grade favorites Alechia Dow, an American Library Association notable and Indie Next Kids pick novelist, and Tracy Badua, a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ multi-award winner.

Laila gave Lucy a cupcake on the second day of kindergarten, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. But the summer before eighth grade, they find out that since they live on opposite sides of town, they’ll go to different high schools. Yuck!

Then Laila’s invited to compete at the Golden Cookie competition, which awards its winner admission and a full ride to the prestigious Sunderland boarding school, and  
  it’s the perfect opportunity. Sunderland doesn’t just have an elite culinary program;
it’s also home to an elite journalism track, if only newscaster-hopeful Lucy could build up a strong enough portfolio to impress the scholarship committee.

But when one of the celebrity judges collapses after sampling Laila’s showpiece, rumors of foul play swirl, with Laila rising to the top of the suspect list. Even worse, a major storm has effectively cut off all access to the outside world. Can the girls find the real culprit and clear Laila’s name before it’s too late?

“The Cookie Crumbles”

Tracy Badua and Alechia Dow | June 11, 2024 | Quill Tree Books (Harper Collins)

Middle grade/mystery

Hardcover | 978-0063254589 | $19.99

Ebook | B0CHW5X621 | $9.99

Audiobook | B0CJ5V5J9F | $14.95 

More about the authors

Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, a librarian, and an award-winning author of acclaimed young adult sci-fi fantasies, several short anthology pieces, and magical (sometimes mysterious) middle grade stories. When not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her family, baking, reading, taking teeny adventures, and exploring her local food scene.

More from Alechia:

Instagram: @alechiadow | 



Tracy Badua is an award-winning Filipino American author of books about young people with sunny hearts in a sometimes stormy world. By day, she is an attorney who works in national housing policy, and by night, she squeezes in writing, family time, and bites of her secret candy stash. She lives in San Diego, California, with her family.

More from Tracy:

TikTok: @tracybwrites | Instagram: @tracybaduawrites | Facebook: @tracybwrites | Twitter: @tracybwrites

An Interview with

Alechia Dow and Tracy Badua

1. How did you decide to write a book together? What was that process like? 

Alechia: Tracy and I have been writing buddies for eight years, so we understand each other’s style and how to work together to tell the best story possible. As for the process, we communicated the entire time and kept finding ways to have fun. There was a lot of laughter involved and so many cookies! 

2. Alechia, can you tell us a bit about your background in food and how you incorporated that into the book?

Alechia: So as you might’ve read, I am a former professional pastry chef with my Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Baking & Pastry Arts and a concentration in food writing–which means I LOVE writing about food. When it came to The Cookie Crumbles, I finally got the chance to deep-dive into a school kitchen and describe all the intensity (and hot tempers) that comes with competing in such a creative environment!

3. Tracy, what’s something you do differently when writing middle grade instead of young adult?

Tracy: When figuring out what my character will do next, it matters whether it’s a middle grade book or a young adult book. Middle grade book characters like Lucy in The Cookie Crumbles might hit an obstacle and seek adult input (and hello, there is a possible murderer running around this baking competition, so I’d hope young folks would get more people involved). In contrast, an older teen character may feel more confident in their abilities to problem solve and handle tough situations themselves, and they may then take slightly different approaches than a younger character would–though, again, I hope everyone of all ages seeks appropriate assistance when attempted murder is involved. 

4. What do you enjoy most about writing books for children?

Alechia: I enjoy exploring themes that I know children can relate to; friendship, compassion, growing up, family, and learning to stand up in a world that sometimes makes you feel small. I want kids to read this and feel empowered!

Tracy: Not only are the readers wonderful, but writing for kids is far more fun than legal writing for adults. 

5. Why is it important to you to include loving representations of marginalized identities?

Alechia: It’s so important––and impactful––to not only represent characters from marginalized identities as the main characters: when they see someone like themselves having a blast, going on adventures, exploring new spaces, solving mysteries, they know they can do all of that too. They feel seen and for readers outside of marginalized identities, they can learn to empathize and relate. 

6. How do you craft a mystery? Did you know whodunnit from the beginning?

Alechia: Writing a mystery with your favorite writing friend has been a highlight of my career! Crafting this story together meant we had to know the who and how in our whodunnit from the beginning. From there, we just had to explain the why of it, and let me say, we spent so much time getting creative with the red herrings and trying to figure these characters out.  

Tracy: This was the first mystery book I’d written, and I was so lucky to have Alechia as a partner in this. In addition to the work we did together, I immersed myself in the genre to make sure I was getting it right. This meant not only reading a lot of other mystery books for kids, but also watching a ton of mystery movies and television shows. My daughter was a teensy bit annoyed at how often I suggested we spend our screen time on the latest Scooby Doo animated series.

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