A self-described “hopeless witch” finds a warm and welcoming home.
Belladonna Broomstick is chronically challenged when it comes to magic. When she fails the entrance exam to the Creepy Castle School for Witches and Wizards, her misanthropic aunt Hemlock decides to send her to the mythic Person World as a foster child. Filled with misinformation about the Person World, Belladonna is initially apprehensive, but once Aunt Hemlock and Belladonna travel through the Curtain of Invisibility that conceals the Magic Realm from the Person World, they find the adorable town of Merrymeet and a charming couple in a sweet cottage. Belladonna, now Bella, loves Uncle Martin and Aunty Rose on sight and observes striking comparisons between her new family and neighborhood and her old ones. Bella basks in her new family’s creature comforts: hot water, bubble baths, trendy clothes, and more delectable breakfasts. She also notes how much more attractive Persons are in comparison to the community she comes from…no more visible warts! It doesn’t take long before Bella disobeys Aunt Hemlock’s warnings and performs magic; hijinks ensue. Notably, Belladonna and cruel, ugly, smelly Aunt Hemlock are the only people of color depicted in the book, while the kindly Persons of Merrymeet are white. Beneath the surface tale of a lonely child who finds an accepting family lies a mire of comparisons that reinforces harsh stereotypes.
This series opener promises zany fun, but by placing cruel and nonhuman people of color in opposition to lovely white humans, it does all readers a disservice. (Fantasy. 7-10)