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Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble combines baking and brujas — Read an excerpt

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Claire Morice; Walden Pond Press

Love baking? Love magic? Then get ready for A Dash of Trouble.

The first book in Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series — for which you can exclusively see the cover below — revolves around the Legoño family, the owners of a bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, who produce an array of scrumptious baked goods. When young Leonora (or “Leo” for short) tries to participate in their preparations for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, she’s told she’s too young.

So the young girl takes matters into her own hands as she sneaks out of school and back into the bakery, only to make a surprising discovery: Her mother, aunt, and four older sisters are witches. And their secret ingredient? Magic.

Armed with the knowledge that she has her own magical abilities, and determined to help with the family business, Leo decides to practice her gifts in secret by helping her best friend Caroline with a problem. But what the young bruja (witches of Mexican ancestry) doesn’t know is that sometimes a little hint of magic can lead to a whole lot of trouble.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble doesn’t hit bookstores until Jan. 2, 2018 (preorder it here), but you can read an exclusive excerpt from it below.

Walden Pond Press

Excerpt from ‘Love Sugar Magic’ by Anna Meriano

Leo stretched up until she could reach the English-Spanish dictionary Alma and Belén had shared for their eighth-grade Spanish class. She placed the thick blue paperback next to the leather-bound spell book and pulled her old rocking horse over so she could sit facing the desk. She opened the recipe book and started flipping, paying attention mostly to the illustrations and any words she recognized.

Some recipes took up multiple pages and seemed to require weeks or months of preparation. Others, like Isabel’s snow spell, were simple enough to be explained in a few sentences. Leo saw cakes that had something to do with babies (Delivering them? Caring for them? Making them? Leo wasn’t sure) and pies that would help with training pets. Not everything required baking, but every recipe made something sweet.

Leo flipped between the dictionary and the recipes, marveling at all the things her family’s magic could do. It made her fingers itch. She couldn’t wait until morning, much less until she was in high school. She needed to try these recipes now. She needed to bake.

The picture that finally caught and held her attention was a flock of pigs with wings flying off a baking tray. The recipe was for galletas voladoras. “Galleta” meant cookie, and Leo recognized the puerquitos, pig-shaped brown-sugar cookies, in the illustration. She flipped to the almost-back of the Spanish-English dictionary. “Volador” meant flying.

Flying cookies couldn’t be too much harder than flying flour, Leo thought.

Under her bed, Leo found the Easy-Bake Oven she had begged for on her sixth birthday. All her sisters were allowed to use the kitchen oven by that time, and Leo had been tired of being the only one who couldn’t bake things on her own. Plugging the oven’s short cord into the socket next to her bedside table, Leo was pleased to see that the light bulb inside still worked. The plastic toy oven would help Leo keep up with her older sisters again.

Leo would never get away with sneaking into the kitchen and rummaging through the pantry in the middle of the night, but her Easy-Bake Oven came with powdered cookie mixes in tiny paper packets. Isabel had said that magic was mostly about your heart, though Leo would have preferred making a batch of real puerquitos.

Leo snuck halfway down the hall to the bathroom (much safer than the kitchen for late-night excursions). As she filled a pink plastic cup with water, she jumped at every creak and splash, and when she turned around and saw a pair of glowing eyes staring from the hallway, she nearly jumped out of her skin.

It was only Señor Gato. Leo wondered briefly if he was magic too (Weren’t black cats supposed to be? Would Señor Gato tell Mamá?), but he simply jumped onto the counter and rubbed his back against her elbow in lazy circles.

“You’d better not be a spy.” She shook her finger at the cat, who meowed and batted at her hand. After a few scratches behind his ears, Leo returned safely to her room with the water and closed the door behind her.

Ripping the cookie mix open sent yellow dust floating across Leo’s floor. She tried using Isabel’s spell to clean the mess, but she was too excited to concentrate on snow. Instead, while she poured cookie powder and water into one of the plastic Easy-Bake mixing bowls, she tried to fill her mind with memories of flying dreams and trampolines and watching humming birds buzz around the sugar-water feeders Daddy put out in the front yard every spring.

When the dough was soft enough to shape, she popped a pinch into her mouth as a test; it tasted like super-sugary chemicals. Store-bought mixes were nowhere near as good as Mamá’s recipes, but if magic came from sweetness, then Leo was sure that these cookies would hold their fair share of magic. She added two more packets of mix powder and the rest of her water until she had enough dough for a whole batch of cookies. Then she took a small ball of it and started to shape the miniature oval that would become the body of the pig.

To make the real cookies, Mamá used a rolling pin and cookie cutters. Cutting the cookies was one of the first things Mamá ever let Leo do in the bakery. Leo remembered how she had cut carelessly, making a whole tray of puerquitos that were missing limbs, ears, or tails. Mamá had baked and sold them anyway, advertised as “Leo’s Lucky Pigs.” Now Leo didn’t have cookie cutters, but she had no trouble shaping the miniature snouts and ears, and she added tiny dough wings over the shoulders of each pig to make them true flying cookies.

As Leo slid the first cookie into the tiny slot in the Easy-Bake Oven, she closed her eyes and thought about flight again. She was almost sure she felt a tingling in the back of her throat, a sense that she was really working magic. But it was hard to tell if she was imagining it.

She set the timer on the plastic oven and bounced up and down on her heels. The moon hid behind a cloud, shrouding everything except for the glowing white and pink plastic. The air filled with the smell of sweet warm dough and spicy magic. Leo pulled her knees up to her chest and smiled.

The cookie came out of the oven a little brown around the edges but golden and puffy in the center. Leo took the pink plastic spatula and pried one leg off the hot pan, careful not to push too hard and snap the limb clean off.

The freed leg wiggled. Leo yelped and dropped the spatula. The leg wiggled again, and then the other leg pulled free of the pan, and then the cookie shook itself out and stood with its thin blobby legs wobbling under it. It shook its wings, lifted its snout toward the ceiling, and leaped into the air. Leo covered her mouth so her giggle wouldn’t wake her family.

“Come here, pretty,” Leo whispered, but the pig ignored her and flew clumsily toward her bedside table. “Hey, don’t go over there. You’ll get crumbs on my books!” Leo pulled her copy of Matilda out from under the sugar pig. “Now stop that. Hey! That’s my pillow. Don’t you listen?”

The pig continued digging its snout into her pillow as though rooting for food. Maybe the pig didn’t speak English? “Ven,” Leo tried, and stretched out her arms, like Abuela used to when Leo was small. The pig raised its snout and turned toward her. “Ven aquí.”

The little pig jumped into the air and flew into Leo’s raised palm.

“Bonita.” Leo ran a finger over the pig’s back while a crack appeared across the cookie’s face—the pig looked exactly like it was smiling. “Okay, go on.” She tossed the cookie into the air and let it explore her dollhouse. “Let’s make you some brothers and sisters. Hermanos,” she added, and the pig flew in spirals up toward the ceiling. Leo took this as a sign of approval.

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