Sadie’s sad when her two best friends go on vacation without her until a witch moves into her backyard playhouse and shows Sadie a new way to see the world.
Investigating smoke rising from her playhouse, Sadie discovers Ms. M., a Sadie-size witch, inside stirring a cauldron. Though Ms. M. looks witchy—black, smock-style dress, pointy hat—the cauldron contains soup, and the finding spell she casts to locate her friend Ethel, now a yellow warbler, proves to be the hokey-pokey. When the spell fails, they head to the park to search for Ethel, an effort that involves close observation of avian park denizens like blue jays, orioles, song sparrows, and cardinals. Ms. M. introduces Sadie to “life lists” and other birding practices and shares entertaining tales of the witching life including bowling-league matches against the Mid-City Shamans and the praise she garnered in Omens & Augury class. (Ms. M. herself is a cipher: is she a witch or even real?) Charming illustrations slyly echo the humor. However, the adult-oriented satire, simultaneously lauding and ridiculing the green lifestyle (Mom interprets the whole world through yoga; Dad uses fruit smoothies as creative aids), may confuse young readers and undermine the reality-focused “notice the amazing natural world around you” environmental message.
Adults will enjoy the witty non sequiturs, but the story, marred by conflicting themes, never quite coheres. (birding tips, resources) (Fantasy. 9-12)