In this charmingly original and good-hearted fantasy, 12-year-old Rosemary Bliss's parents are truly magical bakers despite the fact that they drive a minivan and wear fanny packs. When Rose watched her mother, Purdy, procure and then mix a lightning bolt into a bowl of cake batter, it was quite the eye-opener. Purdy's cake revived a six-year-old electrocution victim, who roused from his coma when Purdy slipped her special cake's crumbs into the child's mouth. From that moment on, Rose began yearning to become a kitchen magician, too.
Meanwhile, Rose observes her parents fix the town's disasters and misfortunes. Her mother takes care of an elderly sleepwalker by whipping up Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles. She saves the day with Fluffy White Macaroons that lift enormous Mr. Wadsworth from the bottom of a well. Singing Gingersnaps remedy the hoarseness of the local play's star singer (Albert, Rose's father, has to capture a nightingale's song for this last cookie recipe, but he doesn't mind traveling to Germany to retrieve the special ingredient).
As Rose watches her parents in action and helps out at the Follow Your Bliss Bakery, she wishes she were at least unique in some way. She isn't a comedian like her brother Sage. She certainly isn't stunningly beautiful, the way her older brother Ty is. And she's too old to be cute like her little sister Leigh. Rose knows she has many good attributes, but feels on the whole that she is way too ordinary. Then one day, she and Sage are out running errands for the bakery when they spot a caravan of police cars driving through Calamity Falls --- headed directly for the family bakery. Rose fears these people have come for the Bliss Cookery Booke, which is filled with magical recipes.
However, the visitors include Janice Hammer, the mayor of the town of Humbleton. Mayor Hammer has come to beg Purdy and Albert to travel to Humbleton in order to wage a magical battle against a terrible flu bug that is devastating the townsfolk. At first Rose is elated when her parents put her and Ty in charge of the bakery while they’re gone for the week. The siblings are to help Chip, the bakery assistant, but surely this will be an opportunity for Rose to try some magical recipes at last!
To Rose's bitter disappointment, though, her parents announce that no one is to open the Bliss Cookery Booke in their absence. Rose will wear, on a chain around her neck, the key to the secret room in which the special book resides. However, her parents caution that the door isn't to be opened unless the bakery catches on fire because there will be NO MAGIC until Albert and Purdy return from their travels. Rose is an obedient daughter. Even though she is terribly disappointed, she fully expects to follow her parents' rules.
But her plans begin to unravel when a mysterious stranger appears, riding a motorcycle into the Bliss driveway. The motorcyclist is a tall, gloriously striking young woman who announces that she is Rose's Aunt Lily. When Rose says she doesn't have an aunt named Lily, the woman says she is actually a fifth-cousin. She proves she is related by showing Rose that she has the same cooking pot-shaped birthmark all the family members have. Despite Rose's misgivings, her brothers are instantly besotted with their glamorous new relative. Soon Lily is helping Rose, but something feels not quite right. Surely Lily isn't up to no good. Or is she?
Self-effacing Rose is a sympathetic main character whose foibles and mishaps are easy to relate to. Her madcap adventures resulting from her inability to resist experimenting with magic make for a lively read, sure to appeal to young fantasy fans, who will be delighted that the book's cliffhanger ending seems to promise an eventual sequel.
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on February 14, 2012