Saturday, July 04, 2020

The Girl and the Witch's Garden

Bowman, Erin. The Girl and the Witch's Garden
May 26th 2020 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Piper's parents divorced when she was very young, and she hasn't seen her mother since, since her mother's research was more pressing than her daughter. Now that Piper's father has lung cancer and the aunt who has been living with the two has to travel for work, Piper is being sent to spend the summer at her grandmother's estate, where her mother has been living and working. Piper's grandmother, Mrs. Mallory, has always been kind and supportive, visiting frequently, but Piper hasn't been to the Mallory Estate, which is rumored to be a place where children enter and then go missing, for years. When her aunt drops her off, Piper is met by her mother's foster children, Kenji and Julius, and her grandmother has been away for a week. Her mother only joins the children for dinner which Camilla, another foster child, cooks. When they finally meet, her mother doesn't mention anything about not seeing Piper for years, and is oddly distanced. She  makes no apologies and Piper know that she is a burden before going back to her research. Slowly, the children let Piper know what is going on in the house. Each of the children has magic power, an affinity, which is why they have been brought to the Mallory Estate. The grandmother and mother have been trying to find a way in to a burned out garden, a garden that appears fine and flourishing through a magic telescope that the children have. Once in the garden, they hope to find an elixir of immortality that the High Order of Magi have hidden. There aren't a lot of other details, but Piper is fairly well spooked, especially since one of the children, Teddy, has been missing along with her grandmother. At first, Piper doesn't think she has an affinity, but jaunts around the house trying to elude a white Persian cat that seems to tattle to her mother prove that she does. She is also able to get into the garden. What will she find there, and will it help the children deliver the elixir to Piper's mother so that they can finally be adopted? And can the elixir help her father? (I don't want to reveal key plot elements and ruin the suspense!)
Strengths: Country estates with elaborate magic have been a favorite of mine since The Children of Green Knowe, so I enjoyed this one. I especially liked that Piper was realistically upset about her mother taking in foster children, and that she found her own affinity as well as her magical object. The underlying problem of her father, as well as her missing grandmother, had me on the edge of my seat. Children in charge of a house and a magical problem? It's been done, but this is a fresh, new approach within the standard formula.
Weaknesses: The mother was so detached and mean that it was rather upsetting, especially since Piper was also losing her father. This made me a bit anxious while reading, and I could have used some small assurances earlier on that things weren't completely dire.
What I really think: Having just read the somewhat similar Time of Green Magic by McKay, I was a little leery of this one, but it had a better balance of powers, magical houses, and family drama. I think I will purchase this one for fans of Funaros' Watch Hollow and other creepy books where children save the day with their powers.

Ms. Yingling

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