30 June 2009

Clover Tiwg and the Magical Cottage

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage
Kaye Umansky, author
Johanna Wright, illustrator
Roaring Brook Press: 18 August 2009
Ages 9 and up
4/5 stars

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage is the U.S. publication of Ms. Umansky's novel that was called Clover Twig and the Incredible Flying Cottage upon publication in the UK in April.

In it, we meet Clover Twig, an unusually neat and responsible pre-teen who is applying for a job with the town witch, Mrs. Eckles. It is obvious at once that Mrs. Eckles needs Clover's housekeeping skills and Clover's large family would certainly benefit from the wages. Clover and Mrs. Eckles take a liking to each other, she is hired and the adventure begins.

Mrs. Eckles has an evil sister, who covets Mrs. Eckles' ramshackle old cottage, simply because it is not her own, and has been trying for years to steal it. Clover, the cat Neville, and the extremely clumsy delivery boy Wilf find themselves in a battle to keep the cottage for Mrs. Eckles, while she is away at a Fair.

When spelled out like that, the plot doesn't sound like much, and some of it is fairly standard children's fantasy--as well as bearing a likeness in some parts to at least one of my favorite authors. On the other hand, there are some good laugh-out-loud bits, the children are likable and when Ms. Umanksy writes about cats, well, it is obvious she knows cats! Also, just when I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, I received a plot surprise here and there which rounded out to a pleasant story, with an amusing and gratifying ending.

On the whole, as an adult who sates herself in fantasy as often as possible, this wasn't an exceptional book. However, I would think that a child, still fresh to the genre, would be enchanted and thoroughly amused. I would certainly recommend it to the young pre-teen, especially female, reader.


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