You can read my review of this first in an adorable new series on Kids Book Review now
SEP 22, 2020 | 9781444956627 | RRP $19.99
While it’s always sad when something wonderful, like this magical series, comes to an end it’s also exciting when the conclusion is so supremely satisfying. Just as she did with the magnificent How to Train Your Dragon series, Cressida Cowell has combined exciting magic, with dangerous and thrilling adventure and a very healthy dose of laugh-out-loud humour with quirky and loveable characters.
Xar and Wish, those misfits in their respective families and very different worlds, are in the final chapter of their self-appointed mission to rid both Wizards and Warriors of the dreadful and destructive Witches. They must destroy the long-imprisoned Witch King and save their people, the magical creatures and, indeed, the Wildwoods and the world from total annihilation.
They have found the Spell-to-get-rid-of-Witches and now they have to track down the Cup of Second Chances, rescue poor little Squeezjoos as well as navigate the heinous Mine of Happiness, defeat the dread Tatzelwerm, deal with their irate parents, protect their companions, find their way to the Lake of the Lost – and a whole lot more.
How exciting for all the fans of this series that the film option has already been picked up by Dreamworks and given the success of the How toTrain Your Dragon franchise we can all expect this to be transformed as excitingly in their hands.
Of course it’s not just the magic and adventure that makes this such a wonderful read of a series. The themes of loyalty, diversity of characters, overcoming difficulties, resilience and ultimately the acceptance of differences are all very much a part of what makes this series such a stand-out.
If your readers have not yet caught onto this series, my best advice is start talking it up and do at least a ‘First Chapter’ read-aloud to hook them. They will be hungry for more without doubt!
My highest recommendation for another of the current Waterstones’ Children’s Laureate’s amazing creations that will capture the hearts of readers from around Upper Primary upwards.
Harper Collins Australia
- ISBN: 9780008308445
- ISBN 10: 0008308446
- Imprint: HarperCollins – GB
- List Price: 16.99 AUD
Being the youngest in the family is often a reason for feeling overlooked and somehow lesser and for Willow Moss this is especially true. She is both the youngest and the least magical in her family of witches. Even though in her most recent (first) adventure she actually saved the entire world which no one remembers at all, it seems her magic has gone rather skewiff and instead of her usual magical ability of being able to find missing things, she is inadvertently making things disappear. Obviously this is causing some disquiet not only with her family but the entire village.
This is particularly upsetting when her friend Sometimes is kidnapped. At least Sometimes, who can see ten minutes into the future, had time to send Willow a note asking for help before he disappeared. Not that it has helped that much as Willow has really no idea where to look for him. Still she sets out along with her faithful kobold Oswin and thus embarks on one of the strangest and most dangerous missions ever, one that will take her right to the very edges of Starfell and into the most terrifying of situations. Fortunately along the way through a series of misadventures and weird circumstances Willow acquires some friends who prove to be staunch in the face of danger.
Your young readers who love exciting magical stories mixed with some nasty villains, just enough creepy danger and loads of humour will lap this series up without doubt. As well as that, they will gain much from the themes of loyalty, friendship, courage and self-belief.
Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.
SEP 24, 2019 | 9781444941470 | RRP $19.99
Not strange at all – looking up and seeing three children clutching a magical flying door high above a forest. Well ok, perhaps a magical door flying is a tiny bit odd but not in a Cressida Cowell fantasy/adventure! Xar, Wish and little Bodkin are escaping their Warrior and Wizard families along with their faithful retinue of assorted sprites, enchanted objects, snowcats, Crusher the giant and of course, Caliburn, the raven who was once the great wizard Pentaglion. However, it’s not just their respective parents and their supporters pursuing them but far worse, the Witches who are hovering above them, unseen but with the worst of intentions.
When Wish’s mother, Warrior Queen Sychorax, sets the forest alight all manner of chaos results. The ragged and tired children are facing the grimmest of narrow escapes until they are unexpectedly rescued by a giant bear. Although the giant bear is not really a bear but is actually Caliburn’s sister whom they are hoping to find and with whom they are hoping to seek shelter. Perdita and her talking owl advisor Hoola may not at first appear the best of saviours but the assorted band of refugees are taken into Pook’s Hill, the school for gifted wizards and are able to re-group, as well as contemplate a possible traitor in their midst.
Xar and Wish have a mission. They are determined to find a way to rid their world of Witches – and most especially the Witch-King, who is trapped in an iron ball but always posing a threat. Their sojourn at Pook’s Hill is not lengthy but enough to fortify them and give them both some skills and confidence with which to control their respective magical powers.
In the meantime, Queen Sychorax and Encanzo, Xar’s father and head of the Wizards, must reconcile their past as star-crossed lovers and unite to rescue their children.
It’s complex, fascinating, enchanting and chockers with exciting adventure and creepy characters. I absolutely adore Cressida’s ability to combine the scary with the humorous, the seriousness with the silliness and of course, her unique illustrations and funky fonts all combine to create a really unique reading experience. No wonder she was chosen as the newest Children’s Laureate UK!
There really is no need to ‘sell’ Cressida’s novels and any readers who have already raced through the first two books in this new series will be leaping to grab this next instalment.
Highly recommended for your readers from around 10 years upwards.
February 1, 2019
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99
I absolutely loved Begone the Raggedy Witches which was the first in this trilogy so was pretty chuffed when this second instalment arrived. The Queen and her raggedy witches have been routed and Mup’s Ma is the new queen having taken her rightful place in the strange new world in which the family finds itself. But things in Witches Borough are not yet safe. The long cruel reign of the old queen has left many festering wounds among the people and more, the ghosts that inhabit the castle. One in particular possesses a terrible magic which threatens to overturn the new order and destroy Mup and her family.
The little grey girl ghost proves to be elusive as well as intent on destruction, and Mup along with her friend Crow are in grave danger as they attempt to uncover both her hiding place and her motives. While Ma tries to placate the remaining witches and clans, Mup is faced with harnessing her own newly discovered powers in order to thwart the ghost’s intentions and right ancient wrongs.
This is an intriguing narrative and though often seriously creepy will have the lovers of such spooky magical tales fully entranced as they follow Mup’s unravelling of the sad and heinous history of her grandmother, the old queen. Readers will find themselves urging Mup to keep up her courage, protect her family and to not succumb to the terrors the ghost produces.
Highly recommended for stout-hearted readers from around ten years upwards.
Release Date: April 1, 2018
Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $18.99
Just wow!! If you have readers who love HP or other magical worlds they are going to love this new series. Set in Ireland with a close family of three generations but one that has secrets. Mup lives with her mum, baby brother, dad (when he’s not away working on oil rigs) and great aunt. But the night that Aunty Boo lies in hospital on her way to leaving this earthly realm strange things befall this family. First Mup sees the ‘raggedy witches’ leaping from tree to tree, following their car all the way home. Then as she tries to go to sleep she hears the witches enter the kitchen and despite her Aunty’s spirit telling her not to go downstairs, of course she does. Her Mam is surrounded by the horrible and frightening creatures and it’s as if she’s been bewitched into leaving with them to go to some other place. It’s only at the last minute that Mup and Aunty are able to prevent this but the witches don’t give up easily. Their next move is to kidnap Mup’s dad. When Mup realizes that her Mam is the heir to the evil Queen of Witch’s Borough, she also realizes that she too is a witch and suddenly the whole family are embroiled in a rescue mission to save her dad and the long-enslaved inhabitants of her mother’s true world.
Men and women who can transform at will, ravens that rhyme and cats that talk, illegal magic and outlawed clans, the tyrannical Queen and her evil pack of followers are all part of the mix against whom Mup and her family must do battle. This is one exciting fantastical ride through a new world. It was a one sitting read for me and no doubt others will find it just as compelling.
The next instalment will be just as intense I predict because we all just know that nasty grandmother and Queen is not going to ‘go’ quietly!
Highly recommended for your middle school readers both boys and girls.
(wish you could see the coppery accents!)
Following twelve books in the How to Train Your Dragon series, devotees of Cressida Cowell’s distinctive quirky writing and illustrating are bound to be enchanted by this first in a completely new series.
Some of the most exquisite cover art I have ever seen promises a read chockfull of mystery and adventure and it certainly does not disappoint.
Xar is a small Wizard, the youngest son of Encanzo the King Enchanter. He is wilful, disobedient, reckless and often just plain naughty and a great disappointment to his father, especially as his Magic has not yet come in. Fed up with this situation, Xar takes it upon himself to lead his retinue of assorted creatures and sprites plus his raven counsel Caliburn into the Badwoods (against all the rules) to try out his grand plan of trapping a Witch and stealing it’s magic. Of course, Witches are supposed to be extinct after the long ago wars between Wizards, Warriors and Witches but Xar has found a special feather which he is convinced is of Witch origin.
Coming from the opposite direction, that of the Warrior fort, a small awkward girl rides her pony accompanied by her protesting novice bodyguard, Bodkin. Wish is the youngest daughter of Queen Sychorax, leader of the Warriors and an imperious, dangerous person. Wish is often disobedient, reckless, and wilful – wait a minute – that sounds familiar! And a huge disappointment to her rather scary mother.
The reader will predict that when these two meet in the forest amid mysterious pursuers and strange happenings, that fireworks will occur. They surely do but as the tale goes on, a strange bond of alliance is forged between these two sworn enemies. Also predictably Witches, it seems, are not extinct but like a lot of Magic, hidden and biding their time.
From start to finish this is a gripping read with Cowell’s usual touches of real humour and absurdity throughout. Darker and edgier than the Dragon books though, there is a real sense of menace throughout.
An audio book is being recorded by David Tennant and movie rights have already been picked up so it’s safe to say this is going to be another winning and highly addictive series from this creative writer/illustrator.
Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards – perhaps with the lights on though!
Penguin Random House
February 1, 2016
This is my first taste of the Jinny & Cooper series but it certainly won’t be my last! And it’s already on my ‘read aloud’ list for Miss Small, my library and relief teaching days!
When Tania’s young daughter first asked her to write about a magical guinea pig, I suspect she had no idea that what would evolve would be a very successful series with appeal to a wide audience.
A question asked of me recently by a couple of parents was regarding fun reads for younger children who have moved on from the beginning chapter books but not yet ready for something beyond their capabilities. This is a series that will fit that bill perfectly and on my notes to buy all for next year’s budget.
Jinny has always wanted a guinea pig but she imagined something golden brown, soft and cuddly and above all, sweet. Little did she expect to end up with something that looks like an unkempt doormat with a real attitude and the power of speech amongst other things.
In this adventure, Cooper fingers Jinny’s seemingly kind teacher Miss Bunney as a nasty witch. Of course, this just seems ridiculous – but is it? Armed with salt and potato charms Jinny, her brother Tyrone and Cooper go into battle with one very unpleasant elderly teacher.
Boys and girls alike will delight in this series and no doubt will be scouring petshops for talking guinea pigs who eat a lot of junk food!
Recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.
Read more about Tania and the series here.