A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (2013)
Suggested age range: 8 and up
(Philomel, 233 pages)
Rating: 4/5 stars
“Life is the grandest adventures one can go on, isn’t it?”
I love to bake and I love to read. Lisa Graff’s new book connects these two hobbies in A Tangle of Knots and I thought this book a true delight! Many characters in this story possess a “Talent,” a special ability. For Will it is the talent of getting lost; for Zane, it is spitting with precision. For eleven year old Cady, it is cake baking. She is able to bake the perfect cake for each individual she meets, and these delectable cake recipes are featured between different chapters in the novel. Will’s S’more Cake. The Owner’s Peanut Butter Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting. Miss Mallory’s Peach Cake. These are just a few. Readers could be baking and reading simultaneously if they really wanted.
There is a mystery behind Cady’s birth; she is an orphan and doesn’t know much about where she came from or about her parents. At the beginning of the story, she moves into a room above the Lost Luggage Emporium with Toby, who also has some secrets from his past. Her new home just happens to be in the same building as a family who may be more connected with her destiny than she realizes.
The perspective in the story changes from chapter to chapter. So, even though the reader might assume the point of view will remain Cady’s throughout the book, that isn’t actually how the story unfolds. The presence of the recipes gives the story texture and detail, and even gives readers something concrete to take away (if they wish!).
In addition to the perspective changes, I also liked the way Graff features both child and adult characters as important players in the story. In some ways this book reminded me of Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo as well as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Both books feature children in search of identity and belonging and also reflect adults who are changed through the course of the story. The connectivity that develops among the various characters and the ideas of destiny and purpose are two ways I think this novel reflects the spirituality of children’s literature. Characters are stirred to take certain action or move in particular directions; it is as if something is driving them to do so. To be honest, I think something is driving me to bake and test “Cady’s Chocolate-Almond Cherry Cake”!
I wonder if teachers could use this novel to connect language arts and baking in their classrooms—how fun would that be?
I whipped through this book, and was sad to see it conclude, yet happy I had discovered such a gem. I think you will be too.