The allure of books about witches is something that is still attracting thousands of young readers. The sub-genre is one that has fans from the very earliest age, with stories about ‘Meg and Mog‘ and ‘Winnie the Witch‘. However it is that slightly older age range, where they are just gaining confidence in their reading, where witches have become something of a favourite. Most children will come across series such as “Witch Wars“, “The Worst Witch” and “Diary of an Accidental Witch“, but these are still quite difficult for some readers. However, this new series by Derek Keilty is a perfect bridge between the age ranges.
I have been a fan of Derek’s work for a few years now and have followed him from the magical wild west, through pirate adventures and now into the world of witches. There are two books in the series, so far and they are both a delight. The first book is called “Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch” and introduces us to the intrepid heroine of the books. Ivy is the daughter of the King and Queen of the Sand Witches (yes it has lot of this kind of humour!) and she is just about to celebrate her birthday, but a violent storm means none of her friends can attend. However, her parents have a prepared a spectacular piece of magic, where they both disappear; the problem is that they don’t re-appear. Luckily Ivy and her ‘familiar’ Tom (part human and part wolf), are made of stern stuff and start out on a mission to find and rescue her parents. After many trials and tribulations they finally reach the cave home of Clawdelia Thorn, Queen of Grotland, a true villain who has ambitions to take over other kingdoms. Of course she gets her comeuppance and Ivy manages to save the day.
The second book in the series is called “Ivy Newt and the Time Thief” and is set at Halloween, a special time for all witches, but it is especially important at Newt Castle as a every year a mysterious house appears, for one day only, and then disappears for the rest of the year. Ivy and Tom are typically inquisitive children and decide that they have to know whether the building is a phantom or real. What they find is a grumpy old witch called Meg, who had a spell cast on her for stealing a clock belonging to a very nasty sorcerer. In order to break the spell, Ivy will have to find someone to mend the clock before midnight, which of course sends her on a quest to solve the problem. As always we have a very satisfactory outcome to the story but it is the reason behind the original disagreement that give us all pause to consider how our word and actions can be interpreted by others.
This is a truly delightful series of books for those who are just gaining confidence in their reading. The stories themselves are enhanced by the magical illustrations of Magda Brol. Ivy is an adventurous young person and her friend/familiar Tom is a strong balance to her. Together they form a great team, one that usually thinks its way through difficult situations. In the second story I particularly felt for Meg and the Sorcerer as we discover that one small moment of misunderstanding has lead to years of anger and regret; it really is a lesson for all of us, one where we need to be more concise about comments that we make. This is highly recommended and I can’t wait for more adventures from this wonderful duo.
Derek Keilty lives in Belfast. Author of over ten books for children and shortlisted for the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year, Derek takes storytelling and creative writing workshops to local schools.
Magda Brol was born in Wroclaw, Poland, and now lives in South London. Her books include When Crocodiles Came Town, Story Time, The Great Hamster Getaway and Pirates Don’t go to School.
Scallywag Press launched in 2019. Their books have won and been shortlisted for many awards and translated into over 15 languages. They love distinctive, amusing and quirky art, and publish talented newcomers and established book creators. Three times short listed for The Bookseller Small Press of the Year, and Youth Libraries Group Publisher of the Year 2022.
Meg and Mog series Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski Puffin
Winnie the Witch series Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul OUP
Witch Wars Sibeal Pounder and Laura Ellen Anderson Bloomsbury
The Worst Witch Jill Murphy Puffin
Diary of an Accidental Witch Honor and Perdita Cargill and Katie Saunders Stripes