“It was the summer that Rosemary Bliss turned ten that she saw her mother fold a lightning bolt into a bowl of batter.” And so begins Kathryn Littlewood’s middle-grade novel, Bliss, which whisks readers into a world of magic and mayhem.
The story centres around 12-year-old Rose, whose mother is a kitchen magician. Her baking can cure all kinds of problems. She mixes lightning into a cake to help a boy who was electrocuted. She adds the yawn of a weasel to snickerdoodles to stop someone from sleepwalking. And, the tail of a cloud is baked into macaroons to lift a man out of a well in which he's been trapped.
This is a world where anything is possible, but to our heroine's chagrin, magic is strictly off-limits to her and her siblings. I won't give too much away, except to say that when her parents leave town for a week, Rose is instructed to keep the ancient family cookbook under lock and key. But, when a long-lost relative appears, Rose and her brother dig out the recipes and begin mixing up Love Muffins and Cookies of Truth. That's when chaos ensues in their small town.
Littlewood is exquisitely detailed in her writing: the opening scene in which Rose's parents catch lightning in a mason jar is spectacular. The magical recipes from the family cookbook—shared in their entirety with readers—makes one want to start baking right away. There's the wonder of discovering a hidden passageway of enchanted ingredients, with jars labelled 'Warlock’s Eye' and 'Dwarf of Perpetual Sleep'. And, readers will be brimming with anticipation at Rose's first attempt at magic. The batter in her mixing bowl trembles and shakes and sizzles and sparks. She realizes that, “these were no Betty Crocker zucchini muffins.”
Bliss is a delicious, lighthearted blend of magic and adventure. Rose is an entirely believable heroine who is trying to find her place in her family and the world. The results of her magic-gone-wrong are both humorous and harmless; there isn't anything to frighten young readers. It's a perfect read for ages 8 and up.
The book does end on a cliffhanger, setting up the storyline for two sequels. Kate started the trilogy when it was first published in 2012, and had an agonizingly long wait for the rest of the books to find out what happens. Luckily, readers today don't have to wait to follow up on Rose’s adventures in Dash of Magic and Bite-Sized Magic.
Two kids, two cats, and a house full of books. We share our favourite picks for young readers.