The Spilled Potion

In this lighthearted kids’ fantasy from debut author Syed, a young witch gets herself into a lot of trouble as the result of trying to get back at her younger sister for her bad behavior.
Thirteen-year-old Zara “Zoey” Williams, who comes from a family of wizards and witches, is tired of her little sister, Allie, causing trouble with magic. She gets particularly annoyed after Allie makes a mess in her room while trying to turn her pet frog, Lilly, into a puppy. In retaliation, Zoey decides to turn Allie into a bunny, which backfires when Zoey accidentally spills the potion needed to restore Allie to her original form; unfortunately, she has no idea how to fix the problem. This sets off a series of misadventures. Zoey gets help from the eccentric head of witchy society, who claims to be Cleopatra—according to her, she wasn’t killed by an asp; she merely time traveled. Eventually, Zoey travels to the future in order to get some needed though currently unavailable ingredients for reversing spells. There, she’s assisted by a girl named Jenny and her mom. This extremely imaginative book stars a clever, young first-person narrator who will greatly appeal to middle school readers. With remarkably strong prose, the author, an 11-year-old, manages to conjure up not only exactly the sort of magical adventure that would appeal to her age group, but also a protagonist to whom they can truly relate. While an older reader might have some trouble embracing the novel due to a few plot holes, such as how Zoey is able to keep her sister’s disappearance a secret from her parents for such a long time, and some far-fetched conceits—if Zoey has to go to the future (a presumably complex spell) to reverse a seemingly simple spell after spilling one potion, what do other magic-users do in even worse situations?—such concerns won’t likely bother the target age group, who will be delighted by the novel’s magic, humor and heart.

A warmhearted, fun children’s story that young fantasy fans will enjoy.

Pub Date: May 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494276966

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.


Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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