After much consideration, Charlotte (who is the chair of Cybils Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade) and I decided that this is fantasy. Like The Series of Unfortunate Events, it was a hard call, since most of what happens is just more unbelievable. It was the sea drying up and the octopus ink that catapulted it into Spec Fic.
Snicket, Lemony. When Did You See Her Last?
October 15th 2013, Little Brown
In this sequel to Who Could That Be At This Hour?, young Lemony is back with his guardian S. Theodora Markson. This time, they are investigating the disappearance of Cleo Knight, whose parents ran Ink, Inc., which was once successful but now has fallen on hard times since the sea has dried up and octopus ink is hard to come by. Cleo's parents have been drugged by Dr. Flammarion, and the story that she has run away to join the circus seems suspicious to Lemony. With the help of Moxie, he investigates, and comes upon several mysteries that tie the disappearance of Cleo to the evil villain Hangfire. There are two more adventures to come before we come to the end of the series and MAYBE find out what all the right questions would have been.
Strengths: This series is easier to follow and less annoying that the first series, and the books are hardcovers with dust jackets, so they will hold up better. The cover art is much more appealing. There are some fun characters.
Weaknesses: Stylistically, I really dislike these. The whole condescending tone and the obscure references... yuck. Still, students don't seem to have these problems!
Laughlin, Florence. The Little Leftover Witch.
27 August 2013, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
When Felina, a young witch, crash lands near Lucinda's house on Halloween, Lucinda's family, the Doons, take her in. Since Felina can't get her broom to work, she is grounded for an entire year. The father reports her to the police and manages to obtain a license to keep her, and the family proceeds to accept Felina into their family despite her witchy ways. They convince her to eat things other than black bat soup, and manage to eventually have her give up her witch hat. With the help of a twinkly and kindly grandfather, she gets her own birthday, and eventually turns into a regular-- and happy-- little girl.
Strengths: This is a reprint of the 1960 (Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc.) title, but has an updated cover illustrations. It is a sweet and simple tale that is reminiscent of Ruth Chew's witch books from the same era, and is a strong tale about the power of love and family acceptance. Since Glee's Chris Colfer is writing the pilot for a Disney Channel show based on this book, I expect that demand will be high.
Weaknesses: There are some details that could have been updated-- Felina goes to a party wearing a fluffy dress, the mother and father fall into fairly rigid stereotypes-- but younger readers will probably not even notice that the license cost for having a witch for a year is only one dollar!