When I picked up Layla, Queen of Hearts, by Glenda Millard, I was unaware that it was a companion to an earlier novel (The Naming of Tishkin Silk) and that it was an Australian import. This ignorance didn’t affect my reading experience in the least. If anything, I was happier after learning it was Australian, because then I could re-read it and imagine charming Aussie accents for all of the adorable yet down-to-earth characters.
Layla’s best friend is Griffin Silk, although in reality his entire family could be considered her best friends. The family is large and strange and if this book were set in the 60’s, they would definitely be called hippies and their home would definitely be called a commune. Everything is hunky dory until Senior Citizen’s Day is announced at school. Layla’s grandparents are no longer around, and even though Griffin’s grandmother Nell would gladly be Layla’s senior citizen, too, Layla wants a person of her own to take. During her search, she is introduced to Miss Amelie, an old woman suffering from alzheimer’s disease. Layla and Miss Amelie form a bond against all odds, and in the end things work out as best as they possibly could.
This book is the perfect thing to read on a chilly fall afternoon and is just as sweet and mouthwatering as the recipe for golden dumplings that is included at the end of the book. It’s cozy without being cloying and the characters are ideal companions without being annoying. Although it deals with some fairly heavy themes such as alzheimer’s disease and death, it never feels heavy. The sketchy black and white illustrations are a good complement to the story. A good read-alike for fans of Laurel Snyder’s Penny Dreadful.
Reviewed from a library copy.