Book Review of Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Bliss is the first book in a new series called The Bliss Bakery Trilogy by Kathryn Littlewood (you can read my review of the second book here). Bliss was a recommendation from a reader of this blog. If you would like to request a review, please fill out the Book Suggestion form. I’d love to review any book your kids want to read that you haven’t had time to preview – or a book that you think other parents would love to know about.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood Book Review by What My Kids Read

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Bliss is about a family that runs a little bakery – a little magical bakery. They are known for having almond croissants that make fevers and runny noses just disappear – even though the Bliss family would disagree and say they are just ordinary croissants made with quality ingredients and love. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss are called away unexpectedly for a week, leaving the four Bliss children, Chip the one employee, and the neighbor Mrs. Carlson to run the bakery for a week. As soon as their parents leave, the children meet “Aunt Lily,” who they have never heard of before. Aunt Lily is suspiciously interested in finding out the family secret – a magic cookbook that no one is supposed to know about. Rose is the only one that is suspicious, but she is tired of being the odd one out all the time.

Parents should be aware that this book is full of magic. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss make magical baked goods from a secret family cookbook that calls for things like a bolt of lightning or fairy wings. The main character, Rose, spends a great deal of time bemoaning her lack of good looks and thinking about a boy she has a crush on. And, finally, you will want to have some cakes or cookies at the read because this book makes you crave baked yummies! In that way, it is a little like A Tangle of Knots.

The message of this book is that everyone has an important role to play – some roles are more flashy than others, but they are all important. It also reinforces the importance of obeying your parents – and that there are rarely shortcuts to life’s problems.

My Mom-Meter gives Bliss an overall safety rating of 2 (Moderately Safe) for ages 9 and up.

The Lexile rating for Bliss is 870L.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood ~ Book Review by What My Kids Read

 

Click here to skip to a Plot summary

Click here to skip straight to Potential Discussion Points

Category ratings (click on the category to see specifics):

Alcohol/DrugsSafe - no actual four-letter words

BullyingSafe - no actual four-letter words

Disrespectful AttitudesModerately Safe

GamblingSafe - no actual four-letter words

Gross BehaviorSafe - no actual four-letter words

LanguageSafe - no actual four-letter words

Magic/SupernaturalCaution

MoralityModerately Safe

Romance/SexModerately Safe

Scary ThemesModerately Safe

ViolenceSafe - no actual four-letter words

 

Plot summary of Bliss: ***Contains Spoilers***

Follow Your Bliss Bakery is a small bakery, run by a loving family: Albert and Purdy, and their children, Thyme (Ty), Rosemary (Rose), Sage, and Parsley (Leigh). Albert was actually Albert Hogswaddle, so he took his wife’s name of Bliss when they were married. Most of their baked goods are simply normal baked goods, but they also secretly use old family recipes from a magical cookbook that cure sicknesses and help others. No one outside of the family knows about the Bliss Cookery Booke, but just as the parents of the Bliss family are called away for a week, a previously unknown “Aunt Lily” shows up to help.

Ty, full name Thyme, is the very attractive oldest of the Bliss children. The main character, Rose (full name Rosemary), is the second born. Sage is a born performer and entertains everyone with his wit and charm. Leigh (full name Parsley) is the 3-year-old baby of the family who carries around a Polaroid camera and snaps photos all the time.

Rose is insecure. She feels like she isn’t pretty and she doesn’t have any special talents like her other siblings. She feels isolated from her brothers, and taken for granted by her parents. She really wants to be trusted to cook up magical baked goods, but her mother only asks her to pick up the ordinary ingredients. She is the only one who is suspicious of Aunt Lily. Her brothers want to tell Lily everything about the magical Bliss Cookery Booke, but Rose refuses. She hates being the stick in the mud, but she also feels responsible to her parents. She has a major crush on a boy named Devin, but she never says anything to him because she is so shy. He is mentioned many times, but isn’t really a major part of the story.

Ty talks Rose into copying down five recipes to try behind Lily’s back. They start with “Love muffins,” trying to spark something between two people who clearly have feelings for each other, but have not managed to connect. Rose and Ty guess at the measurements, so it doesn’t turn out quite as expected, but instead of throwing away the rest of the batch of love muffins, Ty gives them to girls in his class who become obsessed with him. They also make “cookies of truth,” as a way to get back at a pathological liar, but (predictably) everyone else in the town gets some of those cookies, and pandemonium results. Leigh eats a whole plate of cookie of truth, and starts to tell everyone “My family has a magical cookbook! They keep it in the back of the fridge! Rose has the key!” Ty and Rose then quickly try a “Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake” to reverse the effects of the love muffins and cookies of truth and they give a slice of cake to everyone in town (including Leigh). It seems to work at first, but the children soon discover that now everyone is walking backwards, talking backwards, even waving with their feet instead of their hands. It’s a disaster. Poor little Leigh is crawling on all fours, backwards, talking backwards. Mrs. Carlson is convinced Leigh is possessed. Rose warms up to Lily slowly, but Lily put makeup on Rose, making her feel beautiful, and then Rose decides to trust Lily. So, reluctantly, Rose tells Lily everything and Lily bakes up a massive “Back-to-Before Blackberry Torte.” They have to invite everyone in town by speaking backwards and telling them NOT to come, and NOT to eat the torte (since the whole town is doing everything opposite). Before they all eat the torte, Devin gives Rose a backward kiss (nuzzling the back of his head to her face). Lily knows Devin will not remember it, but she is on cloud nine. Once everyone eats the torte, they return to normal, and no one in the town says anything about how crazy it had been.

Lily asks Rose to come with her to New York City and work with her on Lily’s radio show. Lily tells her that they can take the magic cookbook, and bake “Forget-Me Biscuits” that will make everyone forget Lily, Rose, and the cookbook. Rose agrees to it, but changes her mind the next morning as she sees her siblings, and realizes that she has to leave them completely behind. She throws away the biscuits and says goodbye to Lily. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss arrive home soon after that, and soon realize that the children had been given “Hold-Your-Tongue Tarts” by Aunt Lily the first night she arrived. It kept the children from being able to tell their parents about Lily. After they break past that, the children tell their parents everything that happened, and then realize that Lily had stolen the cookbook. Rose decides she will not tell her parents that she almost left with Lily, but promises herself to get the cookbook back for her family. the book ends with Rose realizing that her family does love her and that she wants to be with them.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood ~ Book Review by What My Kids Read

Potential Discussion Points for Parents in Bliss:

  •  Rose wishes “that someone thoughts she was as funny as Sage. She was quietly sarcastic, but that wasn’t the same thing. She wasn’t gorgeous, like Ty. She was too old to be adorable, like Leigh. She was good at baking, which mostly meant that she was meticulous and good at math…And so Rose had come to think of herself as merely ordinary, like a person walking silently in the background of a movie set.” Have you ever felt like Rose? Does it help to compare yourself to others? What does help when you feel like you aren’t important?
  • “She knew she wasn’t ugly, but she wasn’t stunning, either. Rose was sure that if there was any greatness in her at all, it lurked somewhere inside of her and not on her face… [She] wondered why she couldn’t be both – the kind of girl who was good at math and pretty….” Can a girl be smart and pretty? Who do you know that is? 
  • “‘An adult should never ask a child to keep one of their secrets,’ Lily said gravely. ‘It isn’t fair.'” Aunt Lily said that to get Rose to disobey her parents. Was what she said true sometimes?
  • Something – a breath and a voice – comes from the grate in the secret cellar and tells Rose that it knows she craves fortune, fame, and beauty. It tells her to use some of the Tincture of Venus and “you will outshine Helen of Troy.” You might want to have a discussion about what true beauty is.
  • Rose goes along with things she knows are wrong because “She didn’t want Ty to think that she was weak.” Later, she wishes could tell him that “sometimes it seems like you don’t care about me at all… but I love you more than I know how to say so I’m just glad you think I’m good at something.” Do you ever feel like Rose? Have you ever gone along with things just so that someone else will like you or not think you’re weak? Is at a good way to gain respect and friendship? Why?
  • Rose tells Lily “I can’t give you the key. Mom and Dad left it to me. But I promise no one will touch the book again this week.” Lily replies “[I]sn’t that what you promised your parents originally? And didn’t you break out the cookbook anyway?” You might want to talk with your kids about how lies affect our hearts and our relationships. Once we lie, we find it easier to lie again, and we feel guiltier and guiltier. When someone finds out we have lied, they don’t trust us as much as before.
  • Rose’s deepest fear is “that she would never be enough.” Do you ever feel like Rose? Why?
  • Lily says “Remember that part of greatness is admitting that you need help.” Lily says that to get the book, but is what she said still true?
  • When they need ingredients to reverse the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, Ty tells the grocery store he is a rival grocer so that they give him the ingredients for free (because everything is working backwards). Wasn’t that stealing? Was it still okay since they were going to help everyone? Is stealing ever right?
  • “Maybe Aunt Lily was right: Maybe it was selfish of Rose’s parents to keep the Cookery Booke locked away in a tiny bakery in a tiny town. What good could it do here? Maybe there was magic that needed to be done beyond Calamity Falls – subtle magic, gentle magic – that could make the world a better place.” What would you do if you were in Rose’s position and you thought you could make the world a better place?
  • Mrs. Havegood tells Rose “When you have all the money in the world, like I do, sometimes even that isn’t enough. And you have invent things that are even more fabulous than all your money. That is a truth.” You might want to talk with your kids about what money does and doesn’t change.
  • Mr. Bustable finally offers a muffin to Miss Thistle. “There was magic in the two of them sitting there as the brilliant orange of the setting sun glimmered through the trees, but it had nothing to do with spells or mason jars. It was the magic of a person’s ability to change, to grow, to heal, without the aid of any magic at all.” Do you think that magic is just a shortcut for real life? Is taking the easy way the best way?
  • Rose tells Lily “I just can’t leave my family. They’re not perfect, not by a long shot, but I can’t steal the cookbook and run away. It’s not right. And even if they ate these biscuits and never thought of me, I’d be thinking about them the whole time. What’s the point of being famous if the people who love you most don’t even know you anymore?” She realizes that “Aunt Lily loved only herself.” What IS the point of being famous is the people who love you most don’t know you? Do you think Rose made the right decision?

Alcohol/Drugs:

  • “Sipping fancy champagne” is mentioned in passing.
  • When Mr. Bastable is acting crazy in love because of the love muffins and cookies of truth, a fireman asks “What’s that guy on?”
  • Lily says “It seems that everyone in town has either taken a sleeping pill or has fallen under the spell of a wicked witch.”
  • The Dwarf of Perpetual Sleep asks for “a shot of whiskey. Whatever you have is fine, although I’d prefer an audience with Mr. Johnny Walker.”

Bullying:

  • Rose is called “Shake ‘N Bake” at school.

Disrespectful Attitudes:

  • Rose rolls her eyes a few times at various situations.

Gambling: None

Gross Behavior:

  • “Sage’s idea of helping usually involved whining and trying to burp the alphabet.”
  • Ty, Rose, and Sage have to collect the tears of a warlock for a recipe, from an eyeball of a warlock that is in their cellar.
  • When they smell the stink of the Warlock’s Eye, Sage asks “Who farted?”
  • When Rose is wearing makeup, and her brothers are trying to guess what is different about her, Sage guesses “You’re not wearing any underwear.”
  • There are a few times when one of the children feels like they will “vomit” or “throw up.”
  • The Dwarf of Perpetual Sleep (whose name is Rude Dingherwurst) has horrible breath. “It was rank. It smelled like garbage and old fish and poop.”
  • Sage suggests telling people to put the Back-to-Before Blackberry Torte “in their butts.” (because everyone is doing everything backwards, so you have to tell them to do the opposite of what you want them to do.)

Language:

  • “Stupid” is used once.
  • Ty says “Where the heck” once.
  • One of the librarians, says “Oh, peacock poop!”
  • Mrs. Carlson asks “What is that godforsaken shrieking?”
  • Girls, under the spell of a Love Muffin and a Cookie of Truth start shouting “OMG! OMG! OMG!”
  • Sage says “Geez Louise.”
  • Mrs. Carlson calls Lily a “harlot.”
  • “Butt” is used several times.
  • Sage says “What on God’s sweet earth.”
  • Sage calls Rose a “wierdo.”

Magic/Supernatural:

  • The entire book is full of magic. The Bliss family makes magical potions in baked goods, and it magically affects people. There are special ingredients (like a lovebird’s egg or tears from a warlock) and usually something that has to be chanted or whispered when the batter is mixed.
  • Rose calls her parents “kitchen magicians,” which is a good summary.
  • Rose says “We’re like good baker wizards.” Sage replies “If we’re wizards, then where are our wands and our owls and magic hats? And where is our arch-nemesis?”
  • Unicorns are mentioned once, not as if they are real.
  • There is a “Magic of Science class at summer day camp.” It is a science class, not a magic class.
  • The librarians mutter to each other that “Chip was handsome as the devil….”
  • Ty and Rose need “the Tears of a Warlock” for a recipe. “A warlock’s eye does not produce tears of sadness, because a warlock has no deep feeling. When a warlock cries, it is a freakish reversal, a catastrophic event. This provides the needed reversal for the recipe.”
  • There is a “Dwarf of Perpetual Sleep” in a jar, floating in yellowish liquid. They need to use him to whisper the secret of time into some batter once.
  • Something – a breath and a voice – comes from the grate in the secret cellar and tells Rose that it knows she craves fortune, fame, and beauty. It tells her to use some of the Tincture of Venus and “you will outshine Helen of Troy.”
  • When Ty, Rose, and Sage make up the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, the batter take on the shape of a “human face with giant furrowed brows and deep, hollow eyes that glared at Rose. A mouth formed beneath those and wordlessly shouted at her.”
  • Mentions in passing that the planet Mars is named after the Roman god of war.
  • Sage shouts “Jinx!” when he and Ty say something at the same time.
  • Lily says “It seems that everyone in town has either taken a sleeping pill or has fallen under the spell of a wicked witch.”
  • “Rose was heartened by the thought that perhaps there was an actual wicked witch in Calamity Falls who had caused some sleeping enchantment, but her heart sank again when she realized that the wicked witch was, in fact, Rose Bliss.”
  • When Leigh reacts to the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, Mrs. Carlson says “The child is possessed! Call the priest… I’m telling you Satan has invaded her soul!” She also calls Leigh “Devil spawn” and “our little spawn of Satan” and the calls Rose “Spawn of the devil!” for speaking backwards.
  • Lily says “Not all magic is wands and spells and potions, you know. Some of it – the best kind, I think – is much subtler.”
  • Victor Frankenstein and his monster are mentioned once.
  • Rose mentally calls the party where they stopped the effects of the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake as “a townwide zombie disco party.”
  • Ty is described as “smiling devilishly.”
  • Mentions the Tooth Fairy (as not being real).

Morality: 

  • When they need ingredients to reverse the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, Ty tells the grocery store he is a rival grocer so that they give him the ingredients for free (because everything is working backwards).
  • Aunt Lily, who is actually bad, says some very true things.

Potentially Offensive Behavior:

  • Albert took Purdy Bliss’ last name instead of her taking his name when they were married. He says it’s because his last name was Hogswaddle, and Bliss sounds better. Bliss is also the name of the family of magical bakers.
  • Mrs. Carlson, seeing all of the girls under the spell of a Love Muffin and a Cookie of Truth says “It’s as if women’s lib was all but a dream!”

Romance/Sex:

  • There are a lot of references to Rose having a crush on Devin Stetson. “in her brain, they had already sped alongside the river on his moped, had made a picnic in the middle of an open field and read poetry out loud and let the long grass tickle their faces, had kissed under a streetlamp in the fall.”
  • “It was true that she didn’t have any time to go on dates with boys, but even if she did, she probably wouldn’t anyway. A date seemed strange and a little unappealing, like sushi. She would like very much to stand with Devin Stetson at the top of Sparrow Hill and look down at the expanse of Calamity Falls, fall wind blowing through their hair, rustling the leaves. But that wasn’t a date. Still, he was the reason she’s taken a shower before she left this morning….”
  • Rose imagines Devin driving up to her yard on his moped. “Then she’d climb onto the back of his moped, and her knees would brush against his dark denim jeans. She would rest her chin on his shoulder for the entire ride and feel the sting of his blonde hair whipping her cheeks in the wind. Even if they hit a rock and she was tossed into a ditch and broke both legs, it would be worth it.”
  • Mr. Bustable the cabinetmaker is in love with Miss Thistle, the biology teacher. She is in love with him, too. “But they never speak.”
  • Rose and Ty give Mr. Bustable and Miss Thistle “love muffins,” and Rose imagines them falling in love. Ty says “They should be over at his place by  now, slow-dancing in the middle of a frog tank.”  “In Rose’s head, Mr. Bastable would arrive and stand outside the window of Miss Thistle’s classroom, wearing a handsome black pinstripe suit and a fashionable haircut. He would knock on the window and say, ‘Miss Felidia Thistle, I have love you from the moment I saw you!’ Her face would light up and her eyes would gleam with unshed tears of joy. She would climb through the window and walk off with him, arm-in-ar, leaving the first graders sitting with their jaws open. The whole scene was very similar to what Rose wished would happen between her and Devin Stetson, if she ever found herself teaching science at a summer camp.”
  • When the librarians have the cookies of truth, they all do not have a filter anymore. “…her jaw dropped at the sight of Chip and his muscle-bound chest. ‘oh my,’ Miss Karnopolis stammered. “Oh my, my, my. Oh ME, oh me, oh my. Oh. My.'”
  • When a fight break out among the librarians, it escalates, when one librarian says “I would rather be a reference nerd than an expert in romance novels!”
  • When Mr. Bustable had both the Love Muffins and the Cookies of Truth, he climbed on top of a fake Eiffel Tower on top of a restaurant to declare his love to Miss Thistle. He shouts “I want to nibble on her lady fingers! Oh I want to kiss her nose and bake her a pie! I want to put some pie on her nose and lick it off! Felidia Thistle is the most sensational creature in this town – or in any town, for that matter! I want to watch her stomp grapes! She will be my queen!” He then sees her, shouts more sweet nothings, and then takes off his shirt to reveal “The words MARRY ME! were printed across the front in red paint.” “Then Mr. Bastable did something truly embarrassing: While holding tight to the tower with one hand, he unbuttoned his slack with the other, then dropped his pants into a rumple pile atop the roof… In his polka-dotted boxer shorts, Mr. Bastable scooted around so that his bottom was facing the crowd. There was a phrase painted on the back of the boxers: ‘NO IFS, ANDS, OR BUTS!'” Miss Thistle declares her love and tells him to kiss her now. He ends up breaking the tower.
  • Ty gave a couple dozen girls in his class the Muffins of Love and the Cookies of Truth. “Rose wanted to smack him over the head – despite the fact that if she had been presented with the opportunity to give Devin Stetson both a Love Muffin and a Cookie of Truth, she probably would have shoved them down his throat faster than he could say thank you.” The girls go crazy, hoping for any sign of attention from him.
  • Ty has to kiss a girl through the glass in order to get her to faint so she doesn’t break a window. There are dozens of girls ready to break down the door because they want to see him after eating a Love Muffin and a Cookie of Truth. He has to give out compliments to all the girls so that they will faint long enough for him and Rose to bake something to reverse it all.
  • Mrs. Carlson calls Lily a “harlot.”
  • Rose starts dancing with Devin while he is under the influence of the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake. He tells her that she looks gross, which is a compliment (because of the cake making people do the opposite of what they normally do). “Then Devin turned around and sort of pushed the back of his head into her cheek, which, she supposed, was his backward attempt at a kiss. She melted at the touch of his baby-fine hair on her face. He smelled like soap and dreams.”
  • Mr. Bastable is described, tongue-in-cheek, as “Calamity Falls’ premier acrobat and exotic dancer.”
  • A girl is described as wearing a dress that was “far too revealing to be appropriate for a high-school girl.” She tells Ty that he’s “pretty hot and stuff,” but that she wouldn’t date him.

Scary Themes: 

  • There is a passing story of a boy who is nearly electrocuted, but some cake from Bliss Bakery cures him.
  • Purdy Bliss catches lightning bolts in a jar as the family watches from the car. It is a scary scene for Rose.
  • When Ty, Rose, and Sage make up the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, the batter take on the shape of a “human face with giant furrowed brows and deep, hollow eyes that glared at Rose. A mouth formed beneath those and wordlessly shouted at her.”
  • When the town reacts to the Turn-Around-Inside-Out-Upside-Down Cake, it is scary. People are walking backward, doing the opposite of what they normally do. The garbage men deliver garbage instead of taking it away, people drive backwards and in the wrong lane, etc.

Violence:

  • One girl, under the influence of a Muffin of Love and a Cookie of Truth, screams that she is going to “rip someone’s face off” if she doesn’t see Ty.
  • Another girl, also under the influence of a Muffin of Love and a Cookie of Truth, threatens to “set all the furniture from my daddy’s store on fire and throw it through the window.”

Bliss QBliss by Kathryn Littlewood ~ Book Review by What My Kids Readuote 3

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