Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage
Kaye Umansky, author
Johanna Wright, illustrator
Roaring Book Press
Smithsonian Notable Book for Children
Bulletin Blue Ribbons 

I like Clover Twig–a lot. She’s my favorite sort of heroine: down to earth, brave, responsible, hard-working–but the type that still has amazing adventures. I like the British feel to her story, the delightful escapades she has with Wilf (a boy) whilst keeping house for a nice witch (Mrs. Eckles) in a magical cottage deep in the forest.

As all good fantasy should have, there is a definite “bad guy” in the form of Mrs. Eckles’ sister, Mezmeranza. Mezmeranza’s evil intentions are made somewhat humorous by her ridiculous vanity, her crazy management style, and her bumbling staff. Yet, she still manages to wreak havoc.

In addition, there is a terrific cat character (Neville), a vanishing/flying horse, several magical implements and tools (including a Poncho of Imperceptability because Cloaks of Invisibility are so “done”).

Charming and witty narration fill the book. What’s not to like?

My complaints with this book are relatively minor, but worth mentioning: the illustrations are a little “light” and whimsical for the book. In addition, there is some coarse language. It’s not profanity or vulgarity, per se…it just felt a little, well, coarse for a middle grades book. Admittedly, most middle schoolers in the U.S. who haven’t read as much British literature as I have will not pick up on this. Still, worth noting.

Truth/Story: This is a terrific example of a book that has nearly great Story, but is weak on the Truth elements. It’s a fun romp, but nothing too deep resides within the covers. Still, provided you read fantasy, there’s nothing overtly objectionable aside from the aforementioned language.

Cover image from goodreads; book checked out from local library

Recommended for upper elementary and up (although precocious readers could read it as early as third grade or so)