Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, Book 1

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Magically sweet story set in Mexican American family bakery.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of Spanish vocabulary words, some translated, some with meaning evident from context: family words such as "abuela," " bisabuela," " hermana," "hijas," "tía"; food words such as "panadería," " azúcar," "pan de muerto," "pan dulce," "taquería,"  "aguas frescas." Recipes entirely in Spanish. Builds familiarity with Spanish names and surnames, for instance Marisol, Alma, Paloma, Flores, etc. Meaning of and traditions associated with Día de los Muertos.

Positive Messages

The magic in the baked goods stems from love: "Our special family power comes from the magic of sweetness; sweetness from love and sweetness from sugar." Siblings can be different but support and enjoy each other. Diverse communities are rich. People of different backgrounds can get along and celebrate each other's traditions. Loved ones who have passed on are still with us, watching over us. Females are powerful.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mexican American family members maintain traditions while being active members of broader Texas community. Leo, the youngest, is determined to be taken seriously and do what her older siblings can do. She's self-reliant and plots her own course for learning new skills. Her older siblings are inclusive and try to help and support her. Her parents set down rules but are open-minded and loving. The family pulls together to run the bakery and work for the good of the community. Leo's school is diverse, with kids of all backgrounds forming friendships.

Violence & Scariness

No violence, but some readers might find it a tad spooky when two of the sisters are able to channel the voices of loved ones who are deceased. Also, though the family's great-grandmother is deceased, she frequently talks to the twins to give them advice and weigh in on family matters.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, the first book in a new series, is as much a warm story about a Mexican American family as it is a fantasy stirring up potions and magic. The Logroños live in a small town in Texas, where they own a popular panadería that's especially busy for the Day of the Dead festival. When Leo, youngest daughter of five, accidentally discovers that her mom and older sisters can cook up spells as well as bakery treats, she decides to try her hand at some magical recipes herself. The family is tight-knit, supportive, and fun, and the community they live in is diverse. Meriano weaves in lots of Spanish vocabulary, easily understandable from context, as well as information about Mexican traditions for Día de los Muertos. There are a few short but slightly spookier passages in which the sisters are talking to or channeling loved ones who've died. Ending with some recipes for (non-magical) Mexican treats, the story's as sweet as its subject.

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What's the story?

In LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE, Leonora Logroño, known as Leo, is an 11-year-old Mexican American girl who lives in a small town in Texas, the youngest of five sisters. Her family owns the local panadería, and things take a magical turn on the eve of Día de los Muertos when Leo discovers that her mom and sisters are not only baking sweets to celebrate the holiday, they're also cooking up spells. Leo's supposed to wait until she’s 15 to be initiated as a bruja, but she's frustrated that she's excluded, so she steals a book of spells from the bakery and tries her own hand at making magic. Her first attempt, a love spell on a boy at school, goes terribly and comically awry. How will Leo reverse the spell when she has no idea what she's doing?

Is it any good?

Mix one spunky Mexican American girl with some sugarcoated magic spells baked up in her family's panadería, and you've got a recipe for a sweet middle grade fantasy. The magic in Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble is harmless. As oldest sister Isabel explains, "Our special family power comes from the magic of sweetness; sweetness from love and sweetness from sugar."

But the real magic in the story is the Mexican American protagonist and family, with traditions that may be distinct, but relationships that are touchingly familiar. Author Anna Meriano gives us a plucky protagonist who's not afraid to bend the rules to teach herself new skills. When she encounters problems, she doesn't run to adults, but puts her mind to solving them herself. Though her dad is present and loving, it's the females in the family who are brujas, passing knowledge and power down from one generation to the next. The story assigns each sister a defining trait (oldest is responsible, next is rebellious, etc.), and the crowded house with one bathroom for five girls feels realistically busy and bustling and warm.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the magic in Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble. Why do you think the family does magic? Why does Leo's magic go awry?

  • Do the sister relationships in the story feel like your own sibling relationships, or ones you've seen in friends' families?

  • What special traditions or knowledge does your own family pass from one generation to the next? Do they feel "magical" in any way?

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For kids who love magic and Latino stories

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