Scholastic, Inc., 2015. 978-0545814805
Synopsis: Twin sisters Olive and Beatrix don’t often get along. Olive is “ordinary” and loves science. But Beatrix is a witch! She has a brain full of tricks, and she uses her magic powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie. In this first book, Beatrix ruins Olive and Eddie’s latest science project. So Olive and Eddie play a prank on Bea. They rig up a bucket of spiders over her bedroom door. But when the spiders crawl into one of Bea’s magic potions…WHAM! Giant spiders are on the loose! These sisters will have to work together to shrink the not-so itty-bitty spiders down to size! – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: I have friends with younger children that struggle with reading, and the Branches books are a great way to help with retention.
Why I finished it: These books are not meant to be super deep by any means because it is designed to help grow readers, which means the author needs to get to the point a little bit quicker than some other beginning chapter books. We are introduced to the twins: Beatrix is a witch because she was born at midnight on the night of the full moon; Olive was born two minutes later and even though she’s not a witch, she works her own magic with science. The sibling rivalry is something lots of readers with siblings can relate to, and it’s important to have stories that continue to relay the message that even if we don’t get along with our siblings, they will be there to back us up when we need it. I liked the sort of purplish motif with the art because I like purple and because it gives the story a sort of mysterious air that plays up Beatrix’s magic and Olive’s science. The chapters are pretty short (5-10 pages), so it is a pretty quick read that can be enjoyed alone or as a read-aloud. It’s not going to hit the mark with everyone, but I hope that these stories can reach out to struggling readers and help make reading fun.
Other related materials: Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, illustrated by Priscilla Burris; The Amazing Stardust Friends books by Heather Alexander, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer; Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe books by Noah Z. Jones; Stella and the Night Sprites books by Sam Hay, illustrated by Turine Tran; Owl Diaries books by Rebecca Elliott; The Adventures of Sophie Mouse series by Poppy Green, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell; Looniverse books by David Lubar, illustrated by Matt Loveridge; Monkey Me books by Timothy Roland; The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn, illustrated by Robert McPhillips; Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Katie Woo books by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham