Grace-Ella is thrilled when a black cat walks through their door. She's always wanted a pet. But Mr Whiskins has a secret. On the ninth day of the ninth month of her ninth year, he tells Grace-Ella that she is a witch and can start learning magic with the Witches' Council. Grace-Ella has never been good at school - can she learn to be a good witch?
Mae Grace-Ella wrth ei bodd pan ddaw cath ddu drwy'r drws, ac mae hi'n fwy cyffrous fyth pan ddywed Mr Whiskins (sy'n wrach) wrthi y caiff ddysgu am hud a lledrith gyda Chyngor y Gwrachod. Nid yw Grace-Ella erioed wedi llwyddo yn ei gwaith ysgol, felly tybed all hi fod yn wrach dda?
Illustrator Adriana J. Puglisi captures the essence of this lively and readable novel for children aged 7–11, both boys and girls, by Sharon Marie Jones; a smiley, green-eyed, dark-haired nine-year-old waves cheerfully from the star-spangled purple book cover and a black cat gazes up at her, whilst grasping what seems to be a magic wand in its long tail.
Grace-Ella introduces the feisty main character on the ninth day of the ninth month of her ninth year, as she realises that she may be clumsy and less than brilliant at school, but is actually the most recent in her family to be a witch. Talking cat Mr Whiskins highlights her unusual looks, outwardly pointing feet, quickly moving hands and the hidden green five-pointed star on her palm which confirm her to be special in a way her parents are much bemused by. With books, a small touch screen tablet, appropriate equipment and distance learning provided by Penelope Pendle (founder of the Witch Academy), as well as more conventional education, Grace-Ella is a thoroughly modern learner.
Her story develops in a series of episodes as she learns the Nine Golden Rules and tries out beginner spells at home and school so that she can go to her first Witch Council camp. What might have been a quite conventional tale of bullying and humiliation by both pupils and others is brought to life through characters which appeal and surprising happenings which turn the tables.
The author has a talent for creating individuals who capture attention through sharp pen portraits and traits, like laid-back Mr Bevan and his Mrs Bucket-type wife, for example, as well as Grace-Ella, overweight Fflur, bug-obsessed Bedwyr, and teachers Mrs Nag and Miss Fitz, as well as superior fellow pupil Amelia.
Children will love the idea of the familiar pet, and find events hilarious – including hiccuping and dressing up – but they will also appreciate some thoughtful life lessons along the way.
With its natural conversational text and occasional drawings, this is an ideal book for the age group and there is no doubt that readers will want to know more about their heroine's trials and tribulations as she seeks to progress to being a fully fledged witch. Let's hope that Grace-Ella – Spells for Beginners is the first of a series!
M. Lorna Herbert Egan
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio’r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Sharon Marie Jones was born and raised in Dolgellau, in North Wales. She studied English and Education at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and graduated with First Class Honours. After completing a P.G.C.E course, she began a career as a Primary School Teacher and has been teaching at Pontrhydfendigaid Primary School for the last 12 years. Grace-Ella is her first book.
Firefly Press publishes quality fiction for 5-19-year-olds. Set up in 2013 it is based in Cardiff and Aberystwyth and publishes around eight titles per year.