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It's Raining Cupcakes

Twelve-year-old Isabel is dying to get out of her small town of Willow, Oregon, and travel like her best friend, Sophie. But when Isabel’s mother decides to open up a cupcake shop across town, Isabel is once again stuck in Willow for the summer…until she learns of a baking contest where the finalists get an all-expenses paid trip to New York City to compete in the final bake-off. But Sophie is also entering the contest, and Isabel’s mother has reservations. Can Isabel finally realize her dreams of leaving Willow without hurting two of the most important people in her life?

It’s Raining Cupcakes

Chapter 1 red velvet cupcakes A CLASSIC THAT NEVER LETS YOU DOWN
The whole cupcake thing started a couple of years ago, on my tenth birthday. My mom tried a recipe for red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting. She said, “Isabel, this recipe comes from a very famous cupcake shop in New York City called St. Valentine’s Cupcakes. We’re going to make these cupcakes for your party!”

Now, my mother isn’t big on birthday parties. Since I was six, I’ve pretty much planned my own party, from the handmade invitations we deliver right down to the candy we put in the goodie bags.

But baking is what Mom loves. And it’s the one thing we’ve liked doing together. She told me once there’s something really satisfying about throwing stuff into a bowl and watching a mess turn into something wonderful. And she’s right. There is.

That year for my birthday party, only four girls were coming for a sleepover: my best friend Sophie, plus two other girls from school. With such a small group, Mom thought cupcakes made more sense than a big cake.

Those cupcakes turned out delicious. Better than delicious. Amazingly fabulous. And from that day on, all Mom could talk about were cupcakes. Dad and I listened, because we were just glad she was talking about something. When she started talking about opening a cupcake shop, we listened and nodded our heads like it was the best idea ever. I don’t think either of us really thought it was the best idea ever. But after years of trying odd jobs here and there, and complaining about how they were too easy or too hard, too weird or too boring, too right or too wrong, it was nice to hear good stuff for a change.

The talking turned into more than talking last year, when she convinced Dad to buy an old Laundromat with an apartment upstairs. It’s called a walk-up apartment, and they’re more common in big cities, like New York City or Chicago, than the town I live in: Willow, Oregon, population 39,257.

Mom didn’t see a Laundromat. She saw a cute cupcake shop where she could make cupcakes every day and finally be happy. I think that’s what she saw. I’ll admit, I didn’t see that at first.

We moved into the apartment right away, even though the cupcake shop wouldn’t be ready for a while. Mom and Dad took out a loan and hired a contractor to do the work downstairs.

As a bunch of big, burly guys hauled the washing machines out of the building and into a large truck, I asked Mom, “Where will they go to wash their clothes now?”

“Who?” she asked.

“The people who brought their baskets of dirty laundry here every week. Where will they go?”

She looked at me like I had a washing machine for a head. “Well, I don’t know, Isabel. But it really doesn’t matter, does it? I’m sure there are other Laundromats in town.”

“Seems like running a Laundromat, where people wash their own clothes, would be a lot easier than running a cupcake shop, where you have to bake all the cupcakes.”

Mom sighed. “I don’t want a Laundromat. Who would want a Laundromat? I want to bake cupcakes. I want people to walk into my warm, wonderful shop and tell me how much they love my cupcakes. Besides, it won’t just be me doing all the baking. Grandma’s going to help. And you can even help sometimes.”

Maybe it was the fact that this new adventure had forced me to move away from my best friend, Sophie, who’d lived right next door. Maybe it was the fact that my mother expected me to help without even asking if I wanted to. Or maybe, deep down inside, I didn’t think Mom would be able to pull off this cupcake thing. All I know is I still wasn’t sold.

“But I don’t get it, Mom. Do you really think people are going to want to eat cupcakes in a place where they used to wash their dirty, stinky socks?”

This time she looked at me like she wanted to shove a dirty, stinky sock into my mouth. “Isabel, Dad assures me we can turn it into an adorable cupcake shop. Let’s not look back at what’s been, but look ahead to what might be. Okay?”

Was that my mother talking? I must have given her a funny look, because she shrugged and said, “I heard it on TV. I thought it sounded good.”

While Mom and Dad were busy getting the shop ready and organizing the apartment, I’d ride my bike up to the public library for something to do. I’d sit at a table right next to the travel section and read books about the places I wanted to visit someday.

See, my aunt Christy is a flight attendant. She sends me cool postcards from all over the world. When she came to visit last time, I asked her if she liked her job, and she said she doesn’t just like it, she loves it. She gets to meet interesting people and see fascinating places. I asked her if she thought I could be a flight attendant someday, and she smiled real big and said, “You would make a fantastic flight attendant, my dear Isabel.”

As I read those books, I’d dream of taking a cable car ride through San Francisco, or watching a Broadway play in New York City, or eating pastries outside a cute little café in Paris. Compared to those places, our town of Willow seemed about as interesting as dry toast.

I’d never been anywhere outside the state of Oregon. Grandma calls me a native Oregonian, like it’s something to be proud of. What’s there to be proud of? The fact that I own three different hooded coats, because it’s the best way to be ready when the sky decides to open up and pour?

A couple of days after we moved in, Dad and I went to the dollar store because he needed to buy some clipboards and pads of paper for him and Mom. He said there was a lot to do in the coming days, and he wanted to help Mom stay organized. Dad is good at making lists. Not just good. He’s the King of Lists. He usually scribbles them on whatever he can find—the back of an envelope, a corner of the newspaper, a piece of toilet paper. I thought it was sweet how he wanted to help Mom out and buy real paper for a change.

While he scoured the store for list-making supplies, I wandered down the aisles with a single dollar bill, looking for something interesting to buy. In a bin next to dollhouse-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner were a bunch of white plastic wallets with tiny pictures of suitcases on them. I picked one up and opened it. A piece of paper was stuck inside that said, “Passport Holder.”

I imagined a girl like me eating a bowl of soup at a restaurant in Athens, Greece. Suddenly she bumps the bowl, and soup spills all over the table. She gasps when she notices her passport is sitting there on the table. But then she breathes a sigh of relief, because she remembers she bought a passport holder at the dollar store to keep her passport safe. She opens it and finds the passport perfectly soup free.

Of course I had to buy it. Even if I didn’t have a passport to put inside the passport holder.

When I got home, I put little pieces of paper inside it to make a mini-notebook. I carried it around with me everywhere, and whenever I had a thought about traveling, I wrote it down. This is what I wrote the first day:

I want to go

on many journeys.

I want to meet interesting people

and experience new things.


As I wrote that in my passport-holder-turned-note-book, I realized something important. If I ever wanted to get past the Oregon-Idaho border, I needed to make a plan. A fantastic, incredible, big moneymaking plan.

And I thought turning a Laundromat into a cupcake shop was hard.
Reading and Discussion Guide: It’s Raining Cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder ABOUT THE BOOK Twelve-year-old Isabel dreams of seeing the world, but she’s never left Oregon. When her best friend, Sophie, tells her of a baking contest whose winners travel to New York City, she eagerly enters despite concerns about her mother, who is opening a cupcake bakery. Includes cupcake recipes! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian, which means her childhood summers were spent camping, fishing, reading books, and playing in the sun, when it finally came out. These days, Lisa spends her summers, and every other part of the year, sharing all the wonderful things Oregon has to offer with her husband and two sons. Besides It’s Raining Cupcakes she is also the author of three verse novels for young adults published by Simon Pulse: I Heart You, You Haunt Me, an ALA 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; Far From You, a Texas Tayshas selection; and Chasing Brooklyn. PREREADING What are your favorite things to do with a parent? Would it still be fun if you turned it into a business? DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1. After reading chapter one, list everything you already know about Isabel and her family. What does she want? 2. Describe how Isabel’s life has changed since her mom began pursuing her dream. Make a list of what’s good and bad about it. How would you feel in Isabel’s shoes? 3. How is Isabel trying to earn some money for the summer? What does she want to use it for? Is babysitting a good way to make money or not? Like Isabel, do you feel stuck where you live or do you feel like you belong? 4. How does Sophie change Isabel’s summer “in a New York minute”? What kind of contest would you consider entering? 5. Why is Isabel upset when her mom insists she make a cupcake recipe for the contest entry? Describe Isabel’s relationship with her mom. 6. Explain what mistake Isabel made while babysitting Lucas and Logan. What consequences does she face because of this one error? Do you think the boys’ mom acted fairly or not? Why? 7. Why haven’t Isabel and her parents traveled anywhere? Do you, like Isabel, want to travel too? Where would you go? 8. Why does Isabel end up on the fire escape? Would you rather face your dad or the sidewalk? 9. Why must Isabel choose between her own happiness and her mom’s? What does she decide to do about the contest? 10. What is Beatrice’s Brownies? Why will her mom take this so hard? How do they handle it? 11. What type of advice does Grandma dispense? What do you think she would think of Isabel’s decision about the contest? 12. How are things between Isabel and Sophie after spending most of the summer apart? Why can it sometimes be difficult for Isabel to be friends with Sophie? Do all friendships face these struggles? 13. Do you think Sophie was being a good friend to Isabel or not? What about the other way around? Why? Can a best friend still irritate you? How would you handle it? 14. Do you think Isabel needs distance from her small town in Oregon or her tumultuous relationship with her mom? Predict how they will get along in five years. 15. What do Lana and Isabel do together? How does this help mend things with Sophie? 16. What does Isabel figure out about the cupcake shop? How can this lesson about appreciating the treasure apply to your own story? 17. What surprises does Isabel create for her mom? Is it worth the effort? 18. How was Isabel rewarded by all her hard work creating the perfect recipe? What surprise does she find out about the contest? 19. How does Isabel change over the book? How does a reader get to know a character? Of all the characters in the book, which ones did you like the best? 20. What chapter in the book was your favorite? Which relationship reminded you of one of your own? PROJECTS Reading: Because good readers always make predictions as they read, stop at the end of each chapter of It’s Raining Cupcakes and use a sticky note to create a prediction about what you think will happen next in the story. Also, add a note as to what clues made you believe this. Writing: Write a letter from one character to another at an important part of the story. Share with a friend who has also read the book and have them answer as that character. -or- Write a scene between two characters that either did not make it into the story (but could have) or one that could happen after the story closes. Be inspired by Lisa Schroeder’s style! Art: Create a mural (on large butcher paper or even a cheap white flat sheet) that you would put in your very own shop. Or, create a finger-painting masterpiece just for fun. Music: Can you write a jingle or tune for an advertisement for the opening of Caroline’s shop, It’s Raining Cupcakes? -or- Find a song that you think would work for the soundtrack of the movie. Which scene would you pick to play it behind? Why? Create a playlist that should be running at the cupcake shop. Math: Find your favorite recipe for a dessert and add up the price of all the ingredients to create a batch. Then figure out how much you would have to sell each item to make a profit. Make and share the desserts if you can! -or- Plan a trip to a fantastic location like New York City. Research at least three places to go or things you’d like to do when you got there. How much would it cost to fly? Drive? Create a pamphlet describing all the fantastic possibilities for your trip! Business: Design your own business. What would you sell? What would you name your shop or service? How much would you charge? What would be your color theme? Would you deliver? How much money would it cost to get it started? Where would it be located? Design a storefront with a shoebox! Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a children’s author and literacy specialist, created this guide. Visit her website to find hundreds of others like this one!
Photograph by Left Turn Studio.

Lisa Schroeder is the author of the teen verse novels The Day Before; I Heart You, You Haunt Me and its companion novel, Chasing Brooklyn; Far from You; and the teen prose novel Falling for You. She is also the author of the middle grade prose novels It’s Raining Cupcakes, Sprinkles and Secrets, and Frosting and Friendship. She lives in Beaverton, Oregon. Find out more about Lisa and her books at or on Twitter at @Lisa_Schroeder.

More books from this author: Lisa Schroeder