Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters
272pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
When her travelling spell at Witchcraft School went wrong, Gem landed in an unfamiliar, empty, seemingly derelict cottage, outside a strange, colourful town beside the sea, a long way from the school on top of snow-covered mountains where she had begun. But not only was this somewhere she didn’t know, it was a century on from the time she had been in! Telling herself she is not frightened just confused, Gem stepped out to discover just what has happened.
Meanwhile, everyone in Ellsworth Pining thought Gem was their new village witch, even when Gem tried to correct them.
Now in the second in this new series for young independent readers, Little Gem is settling into her life at Ellsworth Pining with the help of Ghost Henry and her other friends. Everyone is preparing for the Midsummer Festival and Little Gem is in charge of the special effects for the Midsummer Play. But when Little Gem’s magic starts to go wrong and she receives several mysterious letters, Gem is worried that the festival is going to be a disaster! Will Little Gem be able to work out who is sending the letters and regain her confidence before opening night?
For those who enjoy a bit of magic mixed in with reality, and who have enjoyed series like Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch., this has all the scaffolding needed to support them including plenty of line illustrations. The pace is just right with time for readers to engage with the characters such as Henry, the resident housekeeping ghost, Renzo, who helps his postman dad in the holidays, Amira, who now has a pet dragon, and Mrs Silva, who runs the local café, learn who they are but not get too bogged down in minute detail, a skill that those who write for children have to perfect to retain their audience’s attention. By doing that well, the young reader can then absorb some of the messages from the situations and circumstances Gem find herself in such as taking responsibility , and learning from your mistakes, even if that puts you in an awkward place, and understanding and reaching out to those who feel different and find things difficult.
Whether a read-aloud or a read-alone, this is a way to introduce young readers to mysteries and set them off on a new reading journey.