Saturday, 26 October 2019

Blog Tour: Grace-Ella: Witch Camp by Sharon Marie Jones and Adriana J Puglisi (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

30th September 2019, Firefly Press, 160 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Firefly Press
Grace-Ella is nervous and excited to go to Witch Camp, with her cat Mr Whiskins, of course. She is put in a cabin with Dilys, Mati and Aisha. Grace-Ella likes them all. But when Dilys’s broomstick flying goes very wrong, and Mati convinces them breaking the rules and going into the woods at night is the only way to help her, Grace-Ella finds herself on a real adventure. Will she be able to save her friends?

Nayu's thoughts
Despite not having read the first book in the series, Grace-Ella Spells For Beginners I didn't feel like I had missed out on anything important. 

I instantly loved Grace-Ella's relationship with her familiar, a cat called Mr Whiskins. Maybe it's because I adore cats, and have always wanted mine to talk, Mr Whiskins was the voice of reason for Grace-Ella. He helped her calm down during intense situations, which happen a few times in her adventures at Witch Camp. Mr Whiskins isn't perfect, he could be a bit more understanding of cats with less confidence, like Dilys's cat Dobbles

Apart from feeling that it was a bit weird everyone introduced themselves with two names, but Grace-Ella didn't say her surname, everything about the book was magical. Sometimes witch stories include aspects which I find gross, like bugs/sn*kes/etc. That was the case at this witch camp! It was a place I wanted to be, there was nothing horrid, none of the teachers were nasty. They may be strict but they were looking after young witches. One teacher in particular ended up being rather reasonable when Grace-Ella and her friends broke the rules. 

Speaking of friends I liked the fact that Grace-Ella could be herself with her friends at home, she didn't have to hide how she was a witch, and her new friends became true friends after a few mishaps. I was curious about Dilys's problem, she kept trying to say something to Grace-Ella but for one reason or another could never blurt it out, until Grace-Ella guessed it. I was completely shocked by Dilys's secret, it made total sense and I felt that she would be able to overcome her hurdle as the teachers would be able to help her with issue.

I laughed at Mati who was very much a witch with attitude, thinking she was going to be the best when she clearly wasn't. She needed to be humble, like Grace-Ella. Aisha is a likeable swot, and her high intelligence proves useful to the four girls who get to share a room together. I liked how there were beds for I the cats, although personally I expected them all to curl up on their respective mistress's bed - cats don't always use items bought for them for the original purpose! Trust me, my radiator cat bed is full of toys because my cat Belle refuses to sit on it. 

Something wonderful happens to Grace-Ella during witch camp, which makes her a bit different from the other witches in a way that made Mati envious. I suspected this would happen the moment the thing in question was introduced. I was pleased to be right, and I am eager to read the first book in the series,, Spells for Beginners, and find out what happens next to Grace-Ella in future books! 

Find out more on Sharon's website and follow her on Twitter. Please be sure to read her post about Ned dated 15th Octoeber 2019, it made me cry for the heartache Sharon and her family have gone through, and shows the goodwill of people trying to help another. 

Suggested read

Grace-Ella Witch Camp Chapter One: The Letter

It was Saturday evening and Grace-Ella was pottering with her potions in the summer house at the bottom of the garden of number 32, Tŷ Mynydd Close. 

‘I wish the letter for Witch Camp would arrive,’ she said, flopping down next to Mr Whiskins. ‘It feels like I’ve been waiting forever. Do you think it’s been lost in the post?’ 

A tap on the glass door interrupted her. Grace-Ella saw a very familiar silhouette, wearing a fur-trimmed deerstalker hat. Bedwyr! 

Bedwyr lived next door and was bonkers about bugs. He collected and studied them in his garden shed, otherwise known as his  ‘Bug Lab’.  

Bedwyr and Grace-Ella’s other best friend, Fflur, were the only people, other than her parents, who knew Grace-Ella was a witch. She had found out when she was nine years, nine months and nine days old. Mr Whiskins had moved in and the Witch Council had sent her her must-have witch items: The Book of Rules, a Witch Tablet with her first spells and potions, a magic wand and a cauldron. 

Grace-Ella had been scared to tell Bedwyr and Fflur the truth, in case they didn’t want to stay friends with her, but now she loved that she could talk to them about her magic, with no secrets. 

‘What you up to?’ Bedwyr asked, as he came in, dressed toe-to-top in his bugbusting gear. 

‘I’ve just finished bottling up my Fizzing Firecracker potion ready for Bonfire Night. It’ll explode across the night sky with colourful, fizzy sparks and loud bangs.’ 

‘Booming brilliant,’ said Bedwyr. ‘I came over to see if you’ve had your letter about Witch Camp yet?’ 

‘No,’ sighed Grace-Ella. ‘I was sure they’d hold it next week because it’s the holidays. Maybe the Witch Council has decided that I’m not ready after all.’ 

‘Do you want to go on a bug hunt to cheer you up?’ asked Bedwyr. ‘Next on my list is the assassin bug. They’re beastly hunters that suck blood from their victims.’ 

‘Gross,’ said Grace-Ella, as they headed out into the garden. Mr Whiskins padded behind, always happy to be part of one of Bedwyr’s hunts. 

‘I’ll just get my torch,’ said Bedwyr, rummaging in his backpack. ‘Dung beetles, I must have left it in my lab.’ He looked up. ‘But we can use Mr Whiskins … he seems to be glowing.’ 

Mr Whiskins was swatting his paw at something flickering fire-bright at the end of his snout. 

Bedwyr snapped on his ‘X-ray’ swimming goggles and peered closer. ‘It’s a firefly.’

‘It’s a tickly fly,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘It’s making me want to snee … snee … ah pfft!’ 

The firefly flew into the air. With a swift swipe, Bedwyr caught the luminous bug in his butterfly net. The firefly fluttered angrily. 

‘I don’t think it’s very happy to be caught,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘It’s looking rather annoyed.’ 

Freeing its trapped antennae from the net, the firefly floated into the sky. It hovered above their heads, before starting to spin, round and round, faster and faster, leaving a trail of fiery sparks in the air. 

‘What’s it doing?’ asked Grace-Ella. 

Bedwyr had no idea what the bioluminescent bug was up to. ‘Maybe it thinks it’s in danger and is doing some kind of SOS call.’

 The firefly flew even faster. It was burning so brightly, the air was warm on their faces. With a sudden crackle, the bright trail burst into flames. As it fizzled out, a shower of shimmering ashes fell to the ground. The firefly dipped low and blew on the ashes. Pumpkin-orange smoke billowed up into the sky. 

‘Bugtastic!’ exclaimed Bedwyr. 

‘Witchtastic!’ squealed Grace-Ella. ‘Look!’ 

On the ground where the ashes had been was a golden envelope. The words ‘Witch Camp’ were written on it in bold, black letters. Grace-Ella picked it up in her trembling hands and hurried back inside the summer house. 

She pulled out the letter and read it aloud.
The Witch Headquarters
Dear Grace-Ella, I am pleased to inform you that you are ready for your very first Witch Camp. There, you can develop your magic spells and potions. If you do well, you will be awarded your Spells for Beginners certificate. Please arrive tomorrow, Sunday, no later than 3pm. Your parents must collect you at the same time next Friday. A map of the camp and directions are enclosed, along with a list of items you’ll need to bring with you. Please note that your parents must leave you and collect you at the Hollow Oak (see map). I look forward to welcoming you. Yours sincerely, Penelope Pendle (Head of the Witch Council) 

‘They haven’t changed their minds about me after all,’ grinned Grace-Ella. 

She pulled two more folded sheets of paper out of the envelope: the map and the list. She spread the map out on her lap. Her eyes danced over the page as she tried to take it all in. 

At the end of the winding road to the camp stood the Hollow Oak, just beyond the Old Stone Archway. The wooden cabins where they would be sleeping were in the Glade, the other side of Fir Tree Forest. Beyond the Glade were Whispering Willow Woods, home to the bubbling Belching Bog. The menacing Black Mountains towered high above the camp. 

‘It looks so magical,’ whispered GraceElla. 

‘Well, it is Witch Camp,’ answered Mr Whiskins, very matter-of-factly. 

‘No need to be such a clever cat.’ 

‘I can’t help it if I’ve been given the gift of catty-cleverness.’ Mr Whiskins arched his back proudly. 

‘Well then, I hope I’ve been given the gift of witchy-wisdom.’ She sighed. ‘I don’t want to be a failure at camp. I bet the other witches will be much better than I am at spells and potions.’ 

‘Stop being such a worry-wart,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘You have magicked through your first spells with hardly a hiccup. You’re a magnifulous-splendifulous witch.’ 

‘Mr Whiskins is right,’ added Bedwyr. ‘You’re the best witch I know.’ 

‘I’m the only witch you know,’ laughed Grace-Ella. 

On the back of the map were the directions. Once her parents had driven her under the Old Stone Archway to the Hollow Oak, Grace-Ella and Mr Whiskins should follow the Toadstool Trail through Fir Tree Forest until they arrived at the Glade. 

‘I hope we find it,’ she said. ‘I’m not very good at following trails. Last time we did orienteering with school, Fflur and I got completely lost because I was holding the compass upside down. We might not even get to Witch Camp.’ 

‘I have an excellent sense of direction,’ said Mr Whiskins. ‘You’ll be in safe paws with me.’ 

Next, Grace-Ella read out the list of things she would need to take with her.

Essential Items for Witch Camp
*   Sleeping bag 
*   Warm clothes and raincoat 
*   Suitable footwear (for woodland walking        and forest foraging) 
*   Towel and toiletries 
*   Notebook and pen 
*   Witch Tablet 
*   Book of Rules 
*   Magic wand 
*   Cauldron 
*   Black cat
‘Well, that’s charming,’ said Mr Whiskins in disgust. ‘Being listed as an item. How rude.’

‘Don’t worry, I won’t be stuffing you into my rucksack,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘If it makes you feel better, you’re definitely the most important item on my list.’ 

If cats had eyebrows, Mr Whiskins would certainly have raised his at that. 

‘I wish I could go with you,’ said Bedwyr. ‘Imagine how many bugs there’ll be in camp. And magical ones too, just like that firefly. Witches have all the best fun.’ 

‘It’s going to be wicked,’ said Grace-Ella. ‘I’d better go and tell Mam and Dad and pack my things. I can’t believe it! I’m actually going to Witch Camp!’

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