Amulet Books, 2013. 978-1419708046
Synopsis: Salem Hyde is a witch that likes making friends, unicorns, and casting spells, and she dislikes being told what to do. To help keep her out of trouble, her parents get her an animal companion, a cat named Percival J. Whamsford III. Salem isn’t too happy about ‘Whammy’ tagging along with her, but if she wants to win the school spelling bee and be the best speller, she is going to need the cat’s help to keep things from going seriously sideways.
Why I picked it up: I’m always on the hunt for great Tween reads, and when I saw an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) at the vendor’s booth at a conference, I scooped it up.
Why I finished it: This is a cute book about a young witch learning the ropes of spell casting and her friendship with an overanxious cat that is trying to keep her on track. Like most kids, Salem is stubborn, silly, and doesn’t particularly like being told what to do. But when given the opportunity to enter the school spelling bee, she’ll do anything to win over snobby Shelly. Whammy is a cat that hates flying (and for good reason – cats don’t fly), but is dedicated to his job of helping young witches reach their full potential. I loved the little nods to some literature classics and found Salem and Whammy’s adventures oddly reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes. Cammuso’s art has a fun and lively feel that draws us in and fuels a lot of the humor of the story. It’s a great transition book for readers looking to start reading something on their own and it still has the pictures to break up the text.
Other related materials: Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Magic Bone books by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Sebastien Braun; Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales told by Extraordinary Cartoonists edited by Chris Duffy; The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Fiona Robinson; Let Sleeping Sea-Monsters Lie and Other Cautionary Tales by Eva Ibbotson; Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinare! by Polly Horvath; Three-Ring Rascals books by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise; Candy Fairies by Helen Perelman, illustrated by Erica-Jane Waters; N.E.R.D.S books by Michael Buckley; Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Lulu in La La Land by Elisabeth Wolf; The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett