Primo is sure that the gold ring he finds in a fish’s stomach must have magical powers. But what are they?
This is the second in a series featuring five young cousins living in an Italian town renowned for its witches. It opens with a letter from a local demon about the town’s (purported) supernatural residents, closes with a more expansive “Witchonary,” and in between chronicles Primo’s efforts to prove his courage and his newly found ring’s magic. But nothing goes right: his prank-loving cousin Rosa refuses to take his claims seriously; an all-night vigil is wasted when the witchy, mischief-making Janara fail to appear; and his quest is trumped by cousin Maria Beppina, who is (supposedly) captured by the scary Clopper after she borrows the ring and reappears with a hair-raising tale. Ultimately an encounter, or a near-encounter anyway, with a child-snatching Manalonga draws praise from Primo’s peers, and all race away to dance the tarantella at a village party. Blackall places her gesticulating, expressive figures, clad in antique country dress, between and beside passages of narrative; they have a timeless look in keeping with the episode’s folkloric air. As in co-published opener Mischief Season, magic weaves its way through both setting and events without quite becoming explicit.
A fresh and pleasing Continental sojourn for chapter-book readers. (map, historical note) (Fantasy. 8-10)