Saturday, 23 January 2010

Witch Baby and Me At School by Debi Gliori

2009, Corgi Children's
320 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

Children's, 7+

Clouds: 3
Pencils: 5
Smiles: 5
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Lily is 9. Her sister Daisy is 1. And she's no ordinary baby. Somehow, when she was born, something went rather wrong... and now Daisy is a Witch Baby. Nobody knows this but Lily - she's the only one who can see when Daisy makes the fridge float in the air, or turns people into slugs, or summons up her very stinky dog Waywoof...

The sisters have now settled into their new home and so it's time for Lily to start at her new school. Can she survive being the new girl? Will Daisy be a help or a hindrance...?

As a reader of Debi Gliori's books (The Trouble With Dragons), I knew I'd be laughing as I read this book. The smiles started at the front cover: In a cheery yellow, with a pretty leaf border, there is no doubt that the cute little girl in yellow is a mischievous little sister - the dragon wings and tail gives it away. Yes, there is an entertaining dragon incident in the story. The illustrations throughout the book added to the story's humour: Debi Gliori is both a talented writer and illustrator.

The summary isn't exactly true: Lily's best friend Vivaldi (female) knows that Daisy is a witch. I think having one other person know the truth helps take a tiny bit of worry off Lily's shoulders. Daisy's magic is unpredictable. People learn this the hard way: including her three witch guardians, whose presence is a secret to the world. I don't think the postman or Daisy's first teacher would agree - both suffer more from The Nose, The Chin and The Toad (The Toad is really a toad, the other two have a large nose and a large chin respectively). The witches want to keep a close eye on Daisy, to see that she isn't suffering from living with humans.

Daisy is coping very well. Her town suffers more inclement weather and unexplained phenomena, which the residents rationalise with alarming ease. Initially I thought Daisy's spells were a little haphazard, but it is soon clear that Daisy knows exactly what she is doing. Unlike Lily, who wants a manual for keeping an eye on her baby sister. And WayWoof, the invisible dog. For if WayWoof disappears, it means a spell is on it's way. WayWoof causes trouble for Lily by stinking. Being accused of the source of WayWoof's pungent stench doesn't make people flock to Lily's side. She feels really lonely when Daisy casts a spell on Vivaldi - poor Lily has to cope at school on her own. She discovers that although her best friend is absent, there is friendship to be found amongst her other classmates. A Daisy-caused weather incident cements the bonds of friendship.

The story is told from Lily's point of view (in first person) and the witches' point of view (in third person). Both points of view led to a well-rounded knowledge of the story: both were extremely funny. It's a story which siblings will enjoy, because although Daisy is a witch baby, how she behaves is typical of most little sisters, and how Lily feels about her is also typical. I liked the little footnotes printed in tiny writing. I liked how certain words or sentences were written in different fonts (and different sizes) - this added more emphasis than ordinary italics.

Overall, I love this book, and hope to collect the other books in the series (Witch Baby and Me, Witch Baby and Me After Dark)

Be sure to check out another amusing series from Debi Gliori: Pure Dead Magic

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