I would like to bake Penny a cake. A fullness of time cake. Chocolate with chocolate frosting, rich and full. ~from Wilma Sue’s notebook
Wilma Sue has come from Miss Daylily’s Home for Children to live with retired missionary sisters, Naomi and Ruth Beedlemeyer. Her caseworker warns her, “Just one infraction and back you go to the orphanage.” Can Wilma Sue manage to behave herself, tame her imagination, and trust the sisters? Will the sisters trust her, or will they betray her trust and believe the lies that other people tell about Wilma Sue? And what is the secret ingredient that makes Ruth’s cakes that she bakes for all the neighbors, so very special—almost magical?
This middle grade novel pokes along rather slowly at first, but the pace picks up toward the middle. And there’s a slam-bang, suspenseful finish. Wilma Sue is an endearing character, as are the missionary sisters from Malawi with whom she comes to live. Ruth bakes special cakes for those who need an extra touch of grace or compassion or just plain neighborliness. Naomi stays busy volunteering at the homeless shelter and with various other charities. Wilma Sue’s job is to feed the chickens. As the story progresses, Wilma Sue forms a bond with these rather peculiar and unorthodox sisters, as she tries to figure out just what it is that makes the cakes that Ruth bakes so magical and what gives them healing properties.
There was something small and winsome and charming about this story. I became involved in the plight and the journey of Wilma Sue, almost in spite of myself, just as Wilma Sue is beguiled into the lives of the sisters. Oh, and Ruth sings hymns as she bakes her cakes. How could I resist?
From Joyce Magnin’s blog: “Children are still willing to believe in magic even though they know it’s not real. I hope that through the use of magic in my books children will also learn something about faith. Because what is faith but believing in things unseen.”
I am, by the way, a litle confused about the title of this book. I read it the way I have it in my post title: Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar Cake. Amazon has it as Cake: Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar. Ms. Magnin just calls the book “Cake” at her blog, so maybe Amazon is right. But I think I prefer my syntax, maybe.
Cake: Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar or Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar Cake is shortlisted for the INSPY, Literature for Young People award.