The Magic Books #5
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Set somewhere in the rural South of both the present and colonial days and rooted in old time herb lore, this is one of Andre Norton's more mundane and unassuming fantasies. Three children, Judy, Crock and Holly, are sent to live with their grandparents who are caretakers of the abandoned Dimsdale mansion and of the local junkyard, which seems to be a steady source of restorable antiques. One of the first old treasures Holly discovers, an embroidered herb pillow, has the power to transport the children through the old, overgrown maze garden and back several centuries where they become embroiled in the competition between two sister witches -- the virtuous Tamar and the scheming Hagar. As always, Norton weaves an ingenious plot; only one witch is remembered in the local legend and the discovery of the dual witches is made the direct outgrowth of Holly's own two-sided nature which vacillates between spitefulness and generosity. And the herbal magic and country crafts, though by now ubiquitous accessories to juvenile fiction, are satisfactorily substantial. One aspect of the story is, however, awkward and unconvincing: Judy, Crock and Holly are supposed to be black children, but this is somehow difficult to believe. Their schoolmates apparently are totally without prejudice and Holly's defensiveness (she is afraid someone will call her "black") is presented as unfounded in fact and wins her little sympathy, even among her family. If, unlike Holly, one doesn't mistrust the continually insisted upon prevailing colorblindness, then the rest is easy -- and the directions for lavender fans, rose beads and fuzzie-muzzies will make everyone want to turn herbalist.
Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2006
ISBN: 0765353016
Page count: 274pp
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1974


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