by Kathryn Littlewood, published 2012
“Her mother and father, despite living in a small town, owning a mini-van, and sometimes wearing fanny packs, were kitchen magicians.”
I picked up this children’s book because of the title…wondering if Bliss referred to some spiritual experience that would inspire children. I was quite mistaken. It’s not anything nearly elevated as that. And in fact, reading the book, I kept wavering about whether it was even worth my time. But I did finish it, and decided that sometimes I have to accept that not many contemporary children’s books qualify as great literature. Bliss falls in that category.
The premise of the book is very worthwhile, and has shades of my favorite authors, Nesbit and Eager. Magic in any form is usually a good recipe for a great book. The reason this children’s book falls short of my standards, besides the ordinary writing, is that the author gives too much away right at the beginning. It’s clear that Rose is going to misuse the magic. It’s also clear, since the inside flap tells us as much, that the Aunt in the book is a fraud. So there’s little suspense. Finally, many of the incidents that happen when the magic goes awry are downright silly, sort of like pie-in-the-face jokes. (In fact, there is a pie in the face in one scene.)
Given all that, you might wonder, if you are still reading this review, why I include this children’s book on the website. Partly because the theme itself is definitely worthwhile: there’s no place like home, and no people like your own family. The book also addresses the teen dilemma of not feeling appreciated and loved by one’s family. I also can see that some kids might enjoy the silliness of the book. Finally, I keep hoping there are some great contemporary writers out there, so I can make the balance between classics and contemporary a little more even. In the end, the book is a harmless way to pass time. If you can’t get your kids to read anything else, maybe this contemporary children’s book about kids and magic would do the trick. Note that there is some girl/boy romance here so it’s best for ages 12 and up, in my opinion.