I read a fair amount of middle grade fantasy – I find it just as well-written as books for older audiences, but without the pressure to be ‘edgy’, which often makes it a gentler, more fun read. I particularly love MG books with a girl character discovering a magic talent, so when I spotted Baker’s Magic at the library, I grabbed it!
Book: Baker’s Magic by Diane Zahler
Read before: I attempted to get an ebook earlier this year, but couldn’t make it work!
Ownership: Library, but I will pick this up to keep at some point.
This book is so very cute! It’s set in a sort of fantasy version of the Netherlands, and a lot of the bad guy’s scheme is centred around control of tulips, to the detriment of the people he rules over (he’s a Wizard Regent, having usurped power from the young princess). Bee, our protagonist, teams up with the displaced princess and the blacksmith’s son, not to mention a feisty pirate queen and her crew, to save the day and also make some very tasty baked goods.
I’m a big fan of small magical talents – Bee’s is that she can bake her feelings into her food (sort of the opposite of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake). Her experiences in the bakery are wonderful, and I love what this book has to say about found family. Zahler has a real talent for describing tastes and scents vividly, which is great in a book this focused on food! I’ve also read her book A True Princess, which is a lovely retelling/reworking of the Princess and the Pea story, and while that doesn’t focus on food, it has incredibly evocative weather descriptions, so I think Zahler’s writing is just good!
I loved the quiet feminism in this – Bee is a great heroine, and there are plenty of excellent, well-rounded, active female characters. Just as importantly, however, the male characters are not ashamed of their feelings – the baker is a really wonderful loving father figure, which you rarely see in kid’s books, or indeed YA. The result is a story which feels incredibly warm and sweet. I don’t think it would fail to make anyone smile on a bad day.
I will definitely be seeking out the rest of Diane Zahler’s books! I’m five-starring a lot of things at the moment, but this definitely deserves five cats for being simultaneously the perfect book for my exhausted adult self, and something I know I would have read to pieces age 8.
Plus, there’s a recipe for the signature buns in the back. How wonderful!