A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

Tangle of KnotsCindy: I wonder what kind of cake Cady would bake  to bring me optimum happiness? Given the mouth-watering recipes sprinkled throughout the text, I think I would be happy with any of them. And I do plan to try a few of them myself! It would be easier to bake a perfect cake than to try to sum up the tangled plot in A Tangle of Knots (Penguin/Philomel 2013) but I’ll give it a shot. Cady lives in an orphanage in a world in which people either have a Talent or are “Fair” (no defined talent). Cady’s is, of course, a talent for baking cakes.

Marigold hasn’t discovered her Talent yet, and she’s getting worried. I personally think it would be better to be Fair than to have her  brother Zane’s talent for spitting on people with accuracy. Or her father’s, a talent for being able to fold a piece of paper in half 12 times instead of the average 7 times. But people will want what they want. And Marigold wants a Talent.

There are a host of other characters with stories of their own and by page 24 this warning:

In just one short week, every last one of them would have lost the thing they treasured most in the world.

That kept me turning the pages. That and the delightful writing, the crazy characters and plots and the longing. Yes, the longing.

Oh, and then there’s the Lost Luggage Emporium. The Owner is on a mission to find a special lost piece of luggage from 53 years ago that he hopes will have a missing scrap of paper that holds the key to his success. What a crazy shop. A few years ago a friend of mine on a road trip through Alabama visited the somewhat famous Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro and came home with tales of the wonders within…and a few treasures she’d purchased. Missing something? You might want to look there. Fascinating what people take with them when they travel.

Did I mention the Talent Thief? The Peanut Butter Factory? The lost child?

And so…the plot threads cross and tangle and eventually all straighten out. If you’re like me, you’ll want to turn back to the beginning to see how Graff set this all up and how she works it all out. I bet it will be just as delightful the second time through.

Lynn:  Count me in as one who wants to read this again immediately!  I’m with Cindy completely on this charming, clever and  whimsical book.  There is a mini-vacation in the pages here – I started reading and all I wanted to do was curl up and stay in this world.  The characters are as much fun as the intricate unfolding plot too:  the completely odious Owner who is a pleasure to loath, the mysterious giant of a man in a gray suit, Marigold who has to be the responsible one and Will who never – well, almost never, gets lost.

There is so much for young readers to think about and connect to here from discovering their own talents to contemplating the role of fate or luck or effort to understanding that it may take time to discover the  true flavor of a person.  This would make a terrific classroom read-aloud or book club book as the discussion potential is high and the appeal of the unfolding story guaranteed to hold interest.  Excuse me, please.  I’m off to read this again!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

3 Comments on "A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff"

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  1. mandyvm@gmail.com' Mandy says:

    Do you think that this book would be a good read aloud to my 5 and 7 year old sons? It sounds very intriguing but I just don’t know if it would be fitting.

    • Mandy,

      The reviews are recommending ages 8-12 and I agree with that. The plot is very intricate and are many threads to keep track of. I think it’s better suited to readers just a bit older than 5. If your 7 year old reads higher, it would be fine but I think it’s one of those books that is probably better for someone a little older.

  2. mandyvm@gmail.com' Mandy says:

    Thanks so much for your help! Love following your blog and putting your recommendations on hold at the library!

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