A book that’s simply bursting with zany characters and wacky ideas. Perfect for newly confident readers.
Elsie Pickles lives in Smallbridge – a very dull country town with a small bridge. Elsie loves her family but she’s finding life in Smallbridge very dull. She’s secretly practising the magic that witch, Magenta Sharp, has taught her but she’s worried she might get caught. Magic is frowned upon in Smallbridge. The people of the town are, therefore, outraged when Magenta unexpectedly appears and sets up a magic shop where the unofficial tip used to be. They make it clear that witches are not welcome in their town. To their horror, this doesn’t stop dozens of witches turning up to visit Magenta’s new shop. Luckily – with help from a jar of Tickle Dust – the people of Smallbridge come to discover that a little bit of magic can be a good thing.
This is the third book in this popular series by Kaye Umansky and I was slightly worried I would struggle to follow the story or understand the characters given I haven’t read either of the other two books. I was, therefore, delighted to find everything I needed to know helpfully summarised at the start (in a section appropriately titled ‘Some Things You Need To Know Before We Get Started’).
Aimed at a lower middle grade audience, the book successfully bridges the gap between books for younger readers and more complex stories for 8 to 12 year olds. The plot is relatively simple but there’s still plenty to keep children interested. Indeed, this is a book that’s simply bursting with slightly zany characters and wacky ideas. There’s a surly and grouchy talking raven who looks down his beak at other birds, an unconventional witch who always wears red, and a magic spell that can cause literal ‘storms in teacups’! I just loved the idea of a tower that can move around (and have a strop if it’s forced to relocate to somewhere it doesn’t feel comfortable). I also chuckled when we met the post boy’s floating basket and discovered he’s given the basket a name – Bill.
There’s also a strong underlying message, about accepting others, which seems particularly well-timed in the current political climate. By the end of the book most people in the town are no longer ‘witchist’. Instead, most of the people in Smallbridge will nod at any visiting witches in a friendly way: some will even wave or stop for quick chat, using one of the new benches in the town square next to the sparkling lemonade fountain.
The text is accompanied by an impressive selection of black and white illustrations by Ashley King. Indeed, there’s relatively few pages that don’t contain at least a motif drawing while there are a handful of full or double-page illustrations that really help bring the crazy characters to life.
If you enjoyed this, why not try one of the other books in this magical series by Kaye Umansky: Witch for a Week or Wish for a Witch. Alternatively, why not try another story about a trainee witch in You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School by Em Lyans.
Date: May 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Website: Kaye Unmansky