With its exaggerated villains; tongue-tripping, made-up words; and magical, confection-filled setting, this delightfully goofy novel offers a faint whiff of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Emma Burblee’s self-absorbed and superficial parents, who “drank fancy champagne and ate rare caviar by the gallon,” have little use for their plain, down-to-earth daughter. After they foist 10-year-old Emma off on equally horrid Uncle Simon, she seems destined to spend the summer cooking for her gluttonous uncle and cleaning his toilets with a toothbrush, until she meets pastry chef extraordinaire, Mr. Crackle. When Emma walks into his bakery, she “felt like she had been dropped in the middle of a miracle.” The shop, which contains a portal to an enchanted spice storeroom, is the scene of Crackle’s race against time to concoct “The Elixir of Delight,” a potion that makes all food taste divine and that will also save Crackle’s life (he’s been poisoned by Uncle Simon’s scheming cohort). Though not Dahl, this is considerable fun for readers who have a taste for sweet, whimsical adventure. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Don't be fooled by the sugary pink cover featuring sparkly cakes and candy stripes; Emma Burblee's story is not sweet. Emma, whose parents are obsessed with being perfect, is sent to stay with her lazy, fat, nefarious Uncle Simon for the summer. He forces her to do all of his CHORES—including hauling massive quantities of dessert from the town bakery on her back. Soon, 10-year-old Emma finds herself working against the clock to save the town's much-loved baker, who has been poisoned as part of Simon's latest get-rich-quick scheme. The story line is erratic (all of the elixirs, poisons, and antidotes are hard to keep track of), and the focus is less on magic and baking and more on ridiculous family members and bizarre turns of events. At times, the line between irreverent and inappropriate is pushed (Uncle Simon tells Emma that she won't be able to sit for a week if she steals any of his treats). Readers will likely lose their appetites for this book long before reaching the end.—Amanda Moss Struckmeyer, Middleton Public Library, WI
When "Plain Jane" Emma tries to thwart her evil uncle's scheme to take over a master baker's shop, a lot of slurping, spewing and brewing ensue.
Mr. and Mrs. Burblee are beautiful, thin and perfect in every way except for one annoying detail: their ordinary daughter. They send Emma to gross Uncle Simon for the summer, but he treats her worse than a servant. She overhears a plot between him and his villainous pal, Maximus Beedy (dressed all in white), to coerce Mr. Crackle, a Supreme-Extreme Master Baker, into making them a magical elixir that will turn any food instantly delicious. They prick him with joobajooba poison, which will rob him of his senses one by one, unless he complies. But Mr. Crackle has a few tricks up his toque, as readers learn when he, Emma and her friend Albie descend into the magic flour barrel to a secret, underground spice shop to round up the ingredients. Will they be able to make the elixir by the deadline? To the list of goofy ingredients (Burberry beans, whingbuzzit legs, biddle hegs, fribs, shick shack shree, etc.) add heaps of preciosity and blend with an overly melodramatic plot—the result is tasteless when compared toCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, the author of which Hashimoto clearly seeks to emulate.
Emma is a tough cookie, but this recipe for a fun fantasy falls as flat as a collapsed soufflé.(Fantasy. 9-11)