PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster
GENRE: Young Reader
When Elsie Pickles offers to house-sit the mysterious home of local witch Magenta Sharp, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Left with a talking raven and a scruffy dog for company, a magical tower that has a mind of its own and a book of instruction called Everything You Need to Know, what could possibly go wrong?
With an assortment of weird and wonderful neighbours banging at the door and a box of volatile magical ingredients that must be used immediately, Elsie finds out that looking after Magenta’s home might not be as easy as she first thought … does she have what it takes to be a witch for a week or will it all end in a magical disaster?
A new magical adventure from Kaye Umansky, the bestselling author of the spellbinding children’s classic Pongwiffy, brought to life with charming illustrations from rising star Ashley King!
I was so excited to get my hands on this one; witches, magic and fun – need I say more?! This book was fantastic, engaging, and I can see why it’s lined up to be one of the biggest children’s releases this year. Because I received a proof copy, I’m yet to see the finished book with King’s illustrations – I honestly can’t wait; if his previous books with Sylvia Bishop are anything to go by, we are in for a real treat with this one. Just from the cover image, you can see how he’s captured the characters perfectly! (UPDATE: IT IS ABSOLUTELY STUNNINGLY ILLUSTRATED. I may have had to buy a finished copy; it’s beautiful!)
The book is full of brilliant tips such as:
“1. be friendly, even to rude people (in fact, especially to rude people.)
2. Pretend that the customer is always right, even when they’re clearly wrong”
It’s also full of little relatable facts such as: “People can be so unreasonable, can’t they?” and “I’m all for good Customer Service, but some people just don’t know when it’s closing time.” These rules and facts ARE SO TRUE and are sure to make anyone laugh a little, especially people who have worked in customer-facing jobs!
Obviously, this book isn’t actually marketed at this audience – it’s aimed at a slightly younger one and it certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front either! I managed to read two chapters in one sitting to a restless class of year 1 students, and they all really enjoyed the beginning of this tale.
Everything in this story was slightly strange and wonderful. A particular favourite has to be the raven, Corbett. “Does the tower really have an ancient rule about ravens never doing the washing up?”…NO HE’S LYING.” and “I am completely self-sufficient and I prefer my own company.” really sum up why he was so entertaining – like a sassy, moody teenager!
I think my one criticism would be the, at times, excessive use of exclamation marks in places where I didn’t feel that they were necessary. It made reading it out-loud a bit of a ‘! and then ! and then !’ experience which took away a little bit of the enjoyment of the story for me.
Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see what story is in store next! Elsie was such a sweet character, and, whilst she wasn’t in it as much, Magenta “Her Witchiness” is easily one of my favourite fictional witches!
There’s a lot of potential here for this to become a beloved series among younger readers and older alike.