Friday, February 14, 2014

A Tangle of Knots, by Lisa Graff

A wonderful middle reader fantasy about kids and grownups who have particular talents (whistling, disappearing, baking, etc.) and a surreal series of coincidences that bring them together in just the right way to fix everything.  It's a story that's so chaotic and jumbled that it's hard to explain, but it basically involves a bitter old man who steals away people's talents, and the efforts of a motley group to stop him.  Learning to break from past mistakes and forgiving oneself, finding a home, and a mysterious man riding a balloon in a well-pressed grey suit figure in as well.  Some homespun wisdom (e.g., "It's the way we deal with what fate hands us that defines who we are") and a series of interesting looking cake recipes fill out this fun offering.

Sometimes a book is just silly enough and a tale is just heartwarming enough that it captures that niche of children's literature that doesn't have to try to be loved.  This one fits in that special place.  Graff's story is reminiscent of Because of Winn Dixie and Savvy but the story is simpler and more direct. Like those stories, the characters are quirky and multi-generational (kids get to be kids, but adults have a role to play in the fun), and the plot isn't afraid of reaching for a little matter-of-fact magic when the real world can't be special enough.  It's a charming story that middle schoolers through young teens (and those with similar young hearts) will enjoy.

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