MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: LOVE SUGAR MAGIC by Anna Meriano

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE is about a girl named Leo, who is almost twelve and not a little kid anymore. But her family seems to be keeping secrets from her. Her four older sisters all get to work in the family bakery with their Mama and Tia. But not Leo. Leo hates being left out, so she does some snooping.

What she discovers is that her Mama and Tia and sisters aren’t just bakers baking breads and cookies. They are brujas making magic with sugar and love.

Leo isn’t supposed to know. Initiation into being a bruja and working in the bakery happens at fifteen. But Leo hates being left behind. So she keeps a secret of her own. She has started practicing magic.

At first, it’s flour into snowflakes and flying cookies. But when a boy hurts her best friend’s feelings, Leo decides to take matters into her own hands. What results is a total disaster. Now Leo must fix her mistakes without letting Mama know. Because if Mama finds out, she might never let Leo learn the family magic. Ever.

This book was just a delight to read. It’s one of those books that not only will have kids flipping pages to get to the end, but will make them want to get up and do something. In this instance, BAKE! I foresee many kids trying their hand at baking magic in the near future.

There is so much in here to love. From a teacher’s perspective, it is the perfect book to read for Dia de los Muertos, as the holiday is featured prominently in the book, with plenty of details about what it really is and how to celebrate it. I especially loved that the whole town comes out for the celebration, but Meriano showed how those outside the culture could celebrate it without appropriating it.

While there is magic and speaking to the dead, there is nothing creepy or scary. And I appreciated that, in keeping with the spirit of Dia de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead were family, loving, and not scary at all.

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC also does a wonderful job of showing a (mostly) happy large family dynamic, which is something we don’t get to see very often in children’s literature. I’m the oldest of six kids, so I love seeing these portrayals done well. Leo had two loving and very involved parents. She had four sisters with their own personalities. And the hubbub and love that comes along with that was all very real.

Overall, this is a book that both adults and children will love and enjoy together.

For fun . . . I asked the other contributors at MG@Heart to answer some silly questions about the book. Here are their responses:

Which sister did you relate to the most?

AMANDA: Leo! I always want to know EVERYTHING! I hate secrets!

LAURIE: Definitely Isabel. I’m the oldest sibling in my family, so I relate to the ways she tries to look out for Leo, and I also relate to her conscientiousness and eagerness to learn and practice something she cares about.

KIT: Definitely the twins. They were kind to Leo. They talked to ghosts! I can’t really talk to ghosts myself . . . but I really wanted to hang around with the twins.

JULIE: Marisol. She was willing to be different and not go along with the others. But despite being a little prickly at times, she was still fiercely loyal to her family.

Which tasty treat tempted you the most as you read?

AMANDA: The cinnamon rolls! I’m trying to cut out added sugar most days so that scene was torture.

LAURIE: Mmm, those cinnamon rolls Leo and her mom make for breakfast sounded AMAZING.

KIT: I’m actually not a huge baked goods fan! But the honey scene made me want to scoop honey out of our jar at home like Pooh bear.

JULIE: Ginger snaps! My favorite 🙂

What kind of magical recipe would you make?

AMANDA: I think I’d make up “Perfect Sleep Tea.” Something I could drink before bed that would make me wake up at the perfect time feeling rested and refreshed.

LAURIE: I liked the idea that Leo was able to put a mild good luck charm on a cookie recipe for her snack club friends. I’d like to make something with a mild happiness charm — something that would just give people a little push towards staying positive and seeing the good in people and situations.

KIT: I’d like to make something to soothe me when I’m stressed or anxious. I wouldn’t mind having Isabel as a family member, the way she could help her mother or sisters relax.

JULIE: Pan de Muerto so that I could talk to my father and grandmother from time to time

What do you think Leo’s special magical power is?

AMANDA: I think it might be that Leo just has a really extra dose of magic. So every spell she does is always more powerful than usual.

LAURIE: Hmm, good question! Maybe it has something to do with her intuition, because I was pretty impressed with the ways she listened to her gut as she figured out how to adapt and then reverse spells.

KIT: I’d like to think it’s something undiscovered! That Leo is truly a special sister, and her skill will be revealed in a later story.

JULIE: I think she must be an influencer like Isabel since she’s so good at convincing everyone to bend the rules for her. But I also suspect she has a special knack for creative spell interpretation!

. . .

Don’t miss the MG@Heart Book Club’s Twitter chat, where there’ll be further discussion of LOVE, SUGAR, MAGIC. It’s happening this Tuesday, February 6th, at 8 pm EST. Find it, and participate, using the #MGbookclub hashtag. See you there!

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