AUTHOR: Kathryn Littlewood
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
LENGTH: 400 pages
SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Singing Gingersnaps.
REVIEW: Littlewood has crafted a pleasantly magical middle grade book. The Bliss family is eccentrically loveable with Rose as the central character struggling to find herself within her family and as a young woman. She wants what most tweens yearn for: acceptance in a family full of children with strong personalities and the ability to make her own mark of significance on the world.
The bakery and the magical Bliss Family Cookery Booke bring a nuanced difference to the fantasy world readers have come to accept with the advent of Harry Potter. The magical ingredients added to the pastries cooked up in the bakery are creatively different in their simplicity: the breath of a sleeping gnome or the tear from a warlock’s eye. The Bliss parents use their confections for good and are a fixture in a small community that is seemingly oblivious to the connection between the pastries and the good fortune that befalls the bakery’s customers.
When “Aunt” Lily arrives to help the children just when Rose’s parents are called away to save a neighboring community beset by illness, a fog of unease settles over Rose and the reader. Rose desperately wants to say “yes” to Aunt Lily’s requests to use the power of the Cookery Booke but can’t shake the feeling in her gut that something is off about Aunt Lily. In a typical, and yet pleasing, middle grade magical plot, Rose and her siblings bake their way into a disaster that can only be escaped by remaining true to the Bliss family credo of honesty in business, baking, and benevolence.
Ultimately, the story winds to a pleasant end with an appropriately heart-warming resolution that matches the rosy glow from the bakery’s ovens. Bliss has set up sequels at the end of the book and readers can look to follow more of the Blisses’ culinary capers in subsequent books. An easy and wholesome read, Littlewood’s first in the series is a delightful addition to middle grade fantasy.
READERS: This book will appeal to intermediate readers who are looking to graduate from basic chapter books to something a little more complex. Both boys and girls can enjoy the book as there is very little action leaning toward one or another gender stereotype. Fans of lighthearted fantasy will enjoy this easy, lighthearted story of magic and muffins.