I’m a huge fan of Michelle Harrison’s middle grade books (see my reviews of A Pinch of Magic and A Sprinkle of Sorcery for why!) so I was really excited to be invited onto the blog tour for her first foray into chapter books – Midnight Magic is a rhyming tale of a girl and her pesky magical cat, told in verse and beautifully illustrated by Elissa Elwick!
Book: Midnight Magic by Michelle Harrison, illustrated by Elissa Elwick.
Read before: No
Publication date: 1st October 2020
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Little Tiger Books. All opinions my own.
Midnight Magic is the tale of one very special black kitten – born at the stroke of midnight, she has magical powers! We follow Midnight as she discovers her magic, loses her family, and finds a new home with a little girl named Trixie, with plenty of hilarious magical adventures along the way. Every page has fabulous purple, black, and white illustrations, which add a real sense of fun to the various tricks Midnight does, from bubble acrobatics to broom-riding! This is unusual in being a chapter book told in verse – there are four chapters, but each chapter is broken down into four-line verses that should make this feel less daunting. The story bounces along with a great sense of rhythm and rhyme, helped out by the fun formatting, with some lines larger, in bold, or swooping around the page – this would be a delight to read aloud together! It would also be a great book for a reader gaining confidence to read by themself, too – the strength of the verse should really help them to get a good sense of the flow of the text. Between the verses and the fully illustrated pages, this would be a wonderful way to coax a picture book lover into a slightly more substantial book.
It’s a joyful read that will have kids gasping and laughing at each new bit of mischief Midnight gets up to. The magic is well-pitched to fit into that line between reality and fantasy – Midnight makes the flowers in Trixie’s wallpaper grow, for example – so it’s easy to imagine how that magic could come into your own life! However, there are some sad moments too, as Midnight’s mother and siblings abandon her to avoid getting into the trouble they think she will create. While the narrative doesn’t linger on this, and things soon perk up for Midnight when she finds Trixie, it’s an interesting moment of darkness in a book that is otherwise fun and zany – I thought it was a really clever way to show the prejudice that many black cats face due to superstition. I know this is a subject close to Michelle’s heart, and one of the major influences for the book, and I was really pleased to see the note at the back which explains that black cats are often the last to be chosen from shelters. This note asks readers, if they want a cat, to consider adopting a black one, and I think this is a really great message – there are so many kitties out there in need of love.
The whole story really feels filled with love – love for cats, certainly, but also family love, as Trixie, her dad, and her nan are a really sweet family unit. It’s great to see a mixed race family so clearly depicted in the illustrations; it’s never made an issue of, which is lovely. It’s also lovely to have a non-nuclear family shown to be so loving and secure with themselves – although there’s a bit of tension created by Trixie’s dad, who thinks neither little girls nor cats should be doing magic, he’s not horrible about it, just wanting to be safe, and does end up trusting Trixie and her nan. I just really loved the sense of warmth I got from them!
I’m always looking for books about cats and about magic, and Midnight Magic combines the two perfectly into a fun, exciting read full of heart. I’m really looking forward to more books in this series – I can’t wait to see what mischief Midnight and Trixie are going to get into next. I can see this becoming a Halloween reread favourite – five out of five magical cats!