A small Southern town welcomes Emma and her family, self-styled “itinerant bakers.”
Eleven-year-old Emma Alabama Lane Cake, her five brothers, their four dogs, and their two eccentric parents travel from place to place because, as patriarch Leo Cake likes to remind his family, “There is so much need in the world, after all, and cake is one simple way to soothe it.” The family never stays long, and they never visit the same town twice. However, when they enter Halleluia, the setting of two previous Aurora County novels (Love, Ruby Lavender, 2001, and The Aurora County All-Stars, 2007), it feels both familiar and enchanting. Emma is heartbroken about constantly having to leave her friends behind with each move. So, though the trees seem to whisper a welcome to her, she has decided not to make any new friends this time. Despite her best efforts, Emma is befriended by Ruby Lavender, who is “not very sweet” but pertinacious in her goodness, and together they hatch a plan to keep the family from moving again. The Cakes and Ruby are white, but Halleluia’s population of oddball inhabitants includes warmly realized black characters, befitting the Mississippi setting. Wiles’ nimble and buoyant prose speaks of yearning, the sweet blossoming of friendship, and the comfort of belonging.
At turns ebullient and sober, this tale is as reassuring and tantalizing as the scent of freshly baked pastries. (author’s note, recipes) (Fiction. 9-12)