Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

At the library where I work, I teach an after school program for kids age 8-12.  The third week of each month we do an activity based on a book.  I do the activity with my friend and co-worker, Sheila Nielson, and she suggested this book for the month of October.  The Bliss family have been bakers for generations.  They have a special cook book that contains recipes with magical powers.  When the Bliss parents are called to a nearby city to help put down a flu epidemic with their croissants, the children are left to run the Bliss bakery on their own.  The day after their parents leave, their "Aunt Lily" shows up on the doorstep and volunteers to help them while their parents are gone.  Rose, the second child and oldest daughter, is suspicious of Tia Lily, but is also eager to try some of the magical recipes her parents use. The recipes don't go well, and one humorous calamity after another befalls Calamity Falls (the town here they live) because of recipes gone wrong.  The author does a good job with pacing and plot line.  At first the mishaps are relatively small and contained, but then they get bigger and more ridiculous until the final climax is utterly silly and involves everyone in town. I think a 8-10 year old would think it was hilarious.  What the author doesn't do as well is characterization.  The point of view character, Rose, is supposed to be going through internal turmoil because he wants to be beautiful and powerful like her aunt, Lily, but she senses that what Aunt Lily is wanting to do with the magical recipes is unethical and unwise. Yet I am never convinced that Rose is a real person.  She swings too easily and too dramatically from one state of mind to another.  It isn't believable in the end when she is considering leaving her family and becoming a TV star with her aunt. She was clearly a character made to fit the plot, instead of having the plot arise out of the character.  Despite that observation, I am not sorry we chose the book for a program theme.  There is so much we can do with the magical recipe idea in terms of games and activities. It should be a fun event. (374 p)

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