Remember how much I loved Picklewitch and Jack? Well, the oddly-matched pair are back with a new adventure!
Book: Picklewitch & Jack and the Cuckoo Cousin by Claire Barker, illustrated by Teemu Juhani
Read before: No (but I might read it again today!)
Ownership: Review copy sent by publisher – all opinions my own.
Once again, Picklewitch and Jack smash it out of the park with this heartwarming and exciting story that tests their friendship to its limits. Picklewitch is still the naughty, strong-willed ball of energy that she’s always been, though she’s a little more sensitive to other people now; Jack still likes things quiet and orderly, though he’s loosened up a bit. But when Picklewitch’s cousin, Archie Cuckoo comes to visit, he shakes up their friendship and causes all sorts of trouble.
Claire Barker has such a knack for insight into friendships. The way that Archie manages to wedge himself between the two friends has such a ring of truth to it, and is something I’ve seen dozens of times. I really enjoyed seeing Picklewitch setting up for Archie’s arrival, organising her birds and laying on entertainment – who hasn’t gone to a wild amount of effort to make and keep a new friend? But Archie has other ideas, and by making himself into Jack’s ideal image of a friend – quiet, studious, polite and neat – he is able to pull Jack away from Picklewitch. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see her realise what’s going on. Where I identified mostly with Jack in the last book, here I was definitely fully in Picklewitch’s head – and cheering when the truth came out! Jack realises that it’s the differences between him and Picklewitch that makes their friendship so great, and Archie’s sycophancy is not at all the basis for a good relationship. Friendships at school can be so changeable and volatile, so having this theme running throughout is a great model for how to cope with manipulative ‘friends’ – even if they don’t need spells to bamboozle your mum and take over your school!
As ever, the book’s illustrations fizz with fun and energy, and there were multiple pages I’d love prints of. Archie is an excellent character, going from perfect to slightly sinister to full-on villain, and the illustrations do a fab job of depicting this with just the right amount of creepiness. I was thrilled to find that there are more pages from Picklewitch’s Grim at the back of the book, showing spells and vocabulary and instructions on how to get your hair witchily perfect (warning: involves twigs and burds). Our pesky witch herself is still bubbling over with charm and strangeness and brilliance, and I still love her fiercely.
The Cuckoo Cousin is a wonderful installment in the adventures of Picklewitch and Jack, and is, like the first book, just brimming with heart. I adored it, and am definitely adding it to my comfort reads shelf next to the first book. Roll on Autumn 2020, when I hear there will be more mischiffery and nortiness!
Five out of five cats (sorry Picklewitch, but I promise they aren’t evil fudgenuts!)