Resourceful Clover, her witchy (but benevolent) employer Mrs. Eckles, Clover’s clumsy friend Wilf and, of course, Mrs. Eckles’ sister, the evil Mesmeranza, are all back for another low-key adventure (Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage, 2009).
Set in a somewhat generic fantasyland peopled by witches, villagers and the odd troll, this sequel should appeal to fans of the first book but relies a bit too much on familiarity with that volume to be truly accessible to newcomers. On the other hand, it’s an easy and engaging read that will be gobbled up by fans of traditional tales, many of whom may be inspired to check out the first installment. There’s mild danger—or at least the hint of it—magical creatures and some humorous jabs at newfangled technology. Clover and Wilf each find a new friend as they travel the Perilous Path, along which they also encounter scary clowns, stuck-up girls and enticing illusions. What they don’t have much luck finding is Herbie, Clover’s little brother, whose disappearance sets the story in motion. Umansky’s characters are once again charmingly quirky, and she peppers her tale with amusingly outlandish events. Wright's comical black-and-white illustrations, sprinkled throughout, seem pitched to the younger end of the intended audience but definitely suit the lighthearted tone.
Despite dire warnings, this magical journey winds up being mostly pleasant and perky, just like its heroine. (Fantasy. 9-12)