Tuesday, August 04, 2020


Van Otterloo, Ash. Cattywampus
August 4th 2020 by Scholastic
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Katybird Hearn and Delpha McGill have very different lives in the twon of Howler's Hollow in Appalachia. Katy's family is fairly well to-do. Her grandparents run a local folk museum, and her mother uses plant magic occasionally, although she is reluctant to discuss Katy's nascent powers. Delpha's family is struggling; her father left when she was young, and her grandmother recently died, leaving her and her mother, who is a midwife, to try to scrape together a living. When Delpha gathers some of her grandmother's quilts to sell to the Hearn's, she finds her grandmother's book of magic. She has trouble with one spell, and ends up animating a disused outhouse! It runs off with her wand and the book inside. Katy hears about the outhouse and goes investigating. The two girls are not friends, so Delpha is not at all pleased when Katy runs off with the book, especially since their familes (the only two with magic in their community) have been at war for a long time. Katy runs off with the book despite the warnings that another family's magic won't work for her. The two have an argument that ends with Delpha casting a "Wend-to-War" spell that ends up raising an army of zombie grannies from the cemetery for "wise women" (aka witches). Neither girl wants to ask for help from their mothers, so the two, along with their classmate Tyler, try to figure out the magic on their own. They run into a number of complications, such as a secret about Tyler's relationship to magic, a secret about Delpha's father, and difficulties about both girls' magic abilities. Unfortunately, there is a festival going on in the town, so it is imperative that the zombies be stopped. There is some help from the ghost of Katy's cousin Echo, from Tyler's uncle, and from a friend of Delpha's grandmother, but when Katy asks her mother for help, she is turned to stone by the zombies! So is Katy's brother, Caleb. As added complications, Katy's pet raccoon, Podge, is missing, and the outhouse is still running loose. Will the girls be able to muster enough power to turn things around before disaster befalls their town?
Strengths: This was certainly an action-packed, creepy novel that is unlike anything I have ever read. There are also a lot of nice touches to the characters; Katy is androgen insensitive, which means that she presents as female but is genetically male; this doesn't bother her except for the fact that it is interfering with her magical powers! Caleb is Deaf and communicates through sign language, and Tyler has two mothers. The real winner here is the zombie grannies, though, and the fact that the magical feud is feeding their tirade. There is a very strong flavor of mountain culture to the characters and the setting as well.
Weaknesses: There are a lot of difficulties with the magic and a lot of sadness in the lives of the girls, and my students generally prefer magical to be a bit more fun.
What I really think: This is really growing on me, but books set in Appalachia are a really hard sell in my library. Will have to feel out my students to see if there is an interest in magical powers that often go awry and in zombie grannies. (Which, seriously, are going to give me nightmares!)

And now I can't get a made-for-t.v. movie out of my mind. It is from the 1970s, and involved a teacher who moved to Appalachia. She was constantly trying to get her students to not shuffle their feet, but when the picked their feet off the ground, they flew. I wasn't allowed to watch many movies in the evening, but this one has stuck with me, but I can never remember the title or any more details!

Here it is! Kim Darby in The Peoplehttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069072/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_58

Now, if I could only find the one about the sun spots that vaporized people, leaving only ashy remains and their clothes on the ground. Main actor someone like Leslie Nielsen-- older, serious.
Ms. Yingling

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