Anna Dale,
Whispering to Witches
(Bloomsbury, 2004)

Anna Dale has a tall task at hand as she takes on the subject matter of witches, especially on the footsteps of the Harry Potter phenomenon, but like J.K. Rowling, she manages to create an inventive, modern tale that can be enjoyed by readers both young and old in Whispering to Witches.

Young Joe Binks planned to spend the Christmas holidays opening gifts and gorging on sweets with his father in London, but when an emergency calls his father away to Scotland, Joe must travel to his mother's home in Canterbury, where she lives with her new husband and Joe's odd half-sister, Esme. Strange happenings arise on his train ride to Canterbury, and Joe soon finds himself in the company of a coven of witches and befriends a young witch his age named Twiggy.

Joe and Twiggy soon uncover a puzzling plot involving a missing page in the most important book in the witch world. But as they race to solve the mystery, Joe receives unsettling news that his father has gone missing in a snowstorm in Scotland....

Dale has fun creating the witch universe that lies parallel to the human one and imbues it with some clever spells and tricks. (Lingo Liquorice allows witches who eat it to hear what animals are saying, and Which Witch magazine details, quite wittily, who's who in the witchy world.)

While the plot may be a bit transparent to grown-ups and more sophisticated child readers, and the children's dialogue is often too mature-sounding to believe, Whispering to Witches is a light and exciting tale that will surely entertain young readers -- and their parents, too.

- Rambles
written by Celeste Miller
published 5 February 2005

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