Coming at you today with some spoopy middle-grade and YA reads that I enjoyed.
You may recall that I loved Ostertag’s The Witch Boy and it was no surprise I also loved The Hidden Witch!
The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag
My Edition: Paperback – 204 pages – 2018 – Scholastic – ISBN: 9781338253757
Aster’s family has relented and allowed him to take witch lessons with the girls and his grandmother offers him additional tutoring if he agrees to help with a project – he must help his great-uncle, Mikasi, come back to his human self. After the recent events, Aster is afraid of his uncle and unsure if he wants to help. But when Aster’s friend Charlie meets a new girl and more bad things start happening, Aster realizes he needs to face his fears in order to help his friends once more.
Again, the theme of this book is about being true to yourself and accepting others. Charlie loves her normal life but she’s starting to see things changing socially at school. Aster is embracing his witchy side but his family is still hesitant. Sedge, after the events of the previous book, really wants to go to a “normal school” like Charlie does and take a step back from shifting and magic. Ariel is isolated and unaware there are others like her. Throughout the story it’s great to see all these characters grow and find acceptance from one another and with themselves.
We also really get to understand Mikasi’s struggles and where he was coming from. This quote I found applies to a couple characters in the book, Mikasi being one of them: “When people treat you like a monster, you start to act like one.” One of the other themes I noticed in the book too (and one that I feel is relevant to society as a whole) is the whole “this is the way it’s always been” mindset that keeps people from accepting change or a challenge.
Another great quote: “The good feelings I get from being a witch…those are usually stronger than the bad feelings I get from what other people think about me.”
The end made me tear up unexpectedly and I hope Ostertag keeps writing in this world!
Also I noticed night scenes have a black page background and days are white. I thought this was a clever touch and a good way to show the passing of time! Bonus pics:
The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter
My Edition: Hardcover – 356 pages – 2018 – Tundra Books – ISBN: 9781101918890
Ruth wants to spend the summer traveling with her father, as usual, but instead she’s sent off to Newfoundland to stay with family she’s never met. Resentful of her father and his new wife, Ruth is miserable at first. But then her cousin Ruby shows up – Ruby, who looks remarkably like Ruth – and the two start exploring their old family home and digging up secrets. The two discover a curse that’s long affected their family: Twin girls are born in every generation and die young, on the very same day. When Ruth starts seeing strange things, the girls start to wonder if there’s a way to break the curse that took both their mothers from them.
I was very impressed with The Swallow – another somewhat dark, middle-grade read from Cotter centering around ghosts – so I had high expectations going into this. Sadly, it didn’t meet my standards. While this isn’t exactly a cheerful read, it didn’t give me any deep feelings, nor deliver in the tear department like I expected (if you didn’t already know this, I love when books make me cry!)
Ruth and Ruby didn’t really stand out for me and while I was interested in learning more about the curse and the history of their family, I wasn’t incredibly invested in their story. It’s also set in the 70s (a theme for Cotter, it seems) and though I noticed the lack of cell phones and computers, it almost felt more timeless – this isn’t really a good or bad thing for me, just something to note.
If you’re looking for a middle-grade read centering around ghosts, family history and a curse, but you don’t want anything to violent, scary or heart-breaking, this would be a good pick. I didn’t think there was anything overly grim – yes, the twin daughters in each generation die young, but there are no graphic descriptions.
I believe Cotter has one other middle-grade novel right now, The Painting, and I’d like to read it. I enjoy that she focuses on darker themes, art, ghosts and curses – that sort of thing is right up my alley. This was solid, but I think because I read The Swallow first, this just didn’t meet the bar that one set. If you’re wondering which of her reads to pick up first, I’d suggest this then The Swallow, for maximum impact.
Bonus pics of this book too because it was nicely designed:
Yes, it’s supposed to look faded like that. Nice touch.