Slush Pile: A publishing industry term referring to the "pile" of manuscript submissions an editor has on his or her desk (and inbox) at any given time, typically unsolicited and unagented.

Slush Pile

Wilma Sue seems destined to go from one foster home to the next-until she is sent to live with sisters and retired missionaries, Ruth and Naomi. Do they really care about Wilma Sue, or are they just looking for a Cinderella-style farmhand to help raise chickens and bake cakes? As Wilma Sue adjusts to her new surroundings and helps deliver some special cakes, Wilma Sue discovers something strange is going on. Did Mrs. Snipplesmith's chair really rise off the floor? Was that really a gold fish in the lemonade? Wilma Sue starts looking for answers and secret ingredients, and along the way makes a new friend--Penny. When Penny and her mother hit a rough patch, Wilma Sue tries to make her own special cake-with disastrous results. Then tragedy strikes the chickens, and all fingers point to Wilma Sue-just when she was starting to believe she could at last find a permanent home. An absolutely fun, funny story with layers of deep truths. What readers don't know is the amount of hard work and revisions I did with the author on this book. We went back and forth four times, tweaking Wilma Sue's story, adding characters, catch phrases, and so much more to bring this book to life. I am reminded of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle meets Mary Poppins, and I have come to care very passionately for this book, its characters, and the wonderful author.


Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar
Author: Magnin, Joyce
Illustrator: Ivanov, Olga
Illustrator: Ivanov, Alexsey

Review Issue Date: December 15, 2012
Online Publish Date: December 1, 2012

Can an oft-rejected orphan settle into the stable, loving home of a pair of gentle sisters who are retired missionaries to Africa?

Twelve-year-old Wilma Sue’s been bounced from home to home in her short life. Now it’s hard for her to believe she even deserves a real home. In a winsomely attractive first-person narration, she relates her growing wonder with Ruth, a social activist, and Naomi, who bakes cakes that are somehow infused with magic. Naomi brings the cakes to deserving members of their tightknit community, each confection perfectly matched to its needy recipient. The sisters also keep chickens that move from being Wilma Sue’s responsibility to her calling. Penny, a girl who lives just down the street seems like the only obstruction to happiness. In many ways, she is more damaged than Wilma Sue, struggling to satisfy her widowed mother’s unmet needs, an impossible task. Magnin maintains a delicate balance between a fablelike fantasy and reality fiction as Wilma Sue gradually discovers that not only is she eminently worthy of love, but that she can also help the people around her by loving them. Wilma’s captivating, clever language and short declarative sentences perfectly exemplify her wary but reverential view of the world.

Although the message is sometimes spelled out instead of implied, it’s a minor flaw in this worthy, heartwarming effort. (Fantasy. 10-15)

Cake, Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar

By Joyce Magnin

Zondervan, $14.95
Kirkus starred review
​Contemporary realistic, hint of magic, Ages 8-12