Of all the magical residents in an Italian town long renowned for its various sorts of witches, the mischievous Janara may be the most mysterious—and troublesome.
By day disguised as neighbors or even relatives, the Janara become invisible with a spell (plus dabs of magic oil in the armpits) at night and set out to play such tricks as (ugh) feeding through a straw inserted up a sleeper’s nose and down into his or her stomach. Thus, when bossy young Rosa wakes one morning itchy of schnoz and starving, it’s time for her and her considerably less obnoxious twin, Emilio, to seek help. But all their efforts only result in further and more widespread “mischiefs,” until town idler Amerigo Pegleg reluctantly admits that oregano is like catnip to the Janara (and he should know). Shrugging off Rosa’s ill-tempered skepticism, Emilio rubs fistfuls of the herb around house and yard, and peace is soon restored. Loosely based on folklore and decorated with Blackall’s two-color drawings of elfin figures in country dress on nearly every page, the comical tale kicks off a projected series set in the picturesque town. Appendices on spell casting and on Benevento’s witchly history (not seen) will cap each episode. Volume 2, The All-Powerful Ring, publishes simultaneously.
Witches never actually step into sight, but their offstage presence adds shivery hints of danger to this lightweight opener. (town map) (Fantasy. 8-10)