You know by now that if there’s a new witchy middle grade out there, I’m all over it!
Book: Diary of an Accidental Witch by Perdita and Honor Cargill, illustrated by Katie Saunders
Publication date: 2nd September 2021
Ownership: E-ARC sent via NetGalley, and review copy sent free of charge by Little Tiger books. All opinions my own.
Monday 20th September
I’M AT WITCH SCHOOL! Now would be a really good time to discover I can do magic…
Bea Black has just moved to Little Spellshire, a town with a magical secret. When her dad accidentally enrols her at the local witch school, she has to get to grips with some interesting new classes, like, NOW! Also on her to do list? Make friends, look after the grumpy class frog AND do everything
humanly magically possible to stay on a broom…
But with the Halloween Ball on the horizon, will she be able to master her wand skills in time to WOW? And more importantly can she keep her newfound magical abilities a secret from dad?
This is a classic school story involving difficult classes, school bullies, and the troubles of making friends and fitting in – it’s just that Bea is an ordinary girl who’s accidentally been signed up to a school for witches! It’s a lighthearted story that will have you thinking ‘just one more section’ – I read it in one sitting, though I didn’t mean to! The world of Little Spellshire is a lot of fun – I’ve read pretty much every witch school book going, and this still managed to feel fresh and interesting; there won’t necessarily be any huge surprises in the worldbuilding in general, but there are some lovely touches, like Bea’s hatred of witch food and the school’s pet frogs. You can just tell the authors had a ball writing this!
Bea is a really endearing heroine; I thought the balance between her thinking thinks were weird, and her getting excited about her new school, was well done. It would have been easy for her to make her be too reluctant to join in, and therefore hold the plot back, or have her throw herself into things too much, in which case, no tension. But her slow warming up to the school and the magic world in general is very fun to read, and feels very realistic; often, she enjoys it despite herself! Her voice is engaging – she uses very modern slang in a way I haven’t seen much in recent middle grade, which can be a little more formal than real life when it comes to children’s dialogue, but it works very much with the diary’s sense of immediacy and personal touch.
The book as a whole is almost exactly halfway between the classic The Worst Witch and more modern, heavily illustrated diary format books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Tom Gates. Bea’s misadventures in magic are like Mildred’s disasters, but a whole lot zanier and more immediate, as we get to hear about them in her own words. The text is interspersed with lists, recipes, and doodles, which has always been something I enjoy in a book – this would definitely have been a favourite if I’d had it as a kid! It’s very stylishly done and helps sell that diary feel; it also makes it suitable for the younger end of the age range, as the narrative is broken up into lots of easily digestible chunks for shorter attention spans. I really enjoyed the illustrations, too, which bring the various strange and wonderful characters to life.
Fans of You Can’t Make Me Go To Witch School and Witch Wars, and those reluctantly growing out of Picklewitch & Jack, will have a brilliant time with Bea. I think this is going to be a real hit – and it’s perfect timing for a Halloween read. I had great fun, and I’m looking forward to more from these authors. Five out of five cats!