Castle Hangnail

384p. Dial. Apr. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803741294.
Gr 4–6—Molly, a 12-year-old witch, arrives as the new master of Castle Hangnail, despite some misgivings on the part of Majordomo, the Igor-like guardian responsible for the management of its legacy and various minion occupants. To keep the castle from having its magic removed and its minions dispersed, Molly must perform a series of wicked tasks, which may be beyond the scope of her moral compass and her fledgling powers. Featuring a bevy of cute and unthreatening touches and populated throughout with spot illustrations, the book quickly establishes grounded and effective stakes. One the one hand, a character is a hypochondriac goldfish, but on the other, a child is responsible for the livelihoods of several adults and is hiding secrets that could drastically affect them. To have these aspects exist side by side so seamlessly is testament to the author's careful maneuvering of tone, including a finale that solidly shows the story's veneer of innocence is overlaid on significant and deadly consequences. While that depth could make the peril disquietingly real for younger readers, it offers a read with substance and resonance, despite the more whimsical trappings. An appealing fantasy for upper middle grade readers.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
Molly--a twelve-year-old not-so-wicked witch--and an evil sorceress both vie for the approval of the apprehensive minions of the magical Castle Hangnail. This is an overall amusing read, with wannabe evil minions running a would-be gloomy castle--which is surrounded by sunny dandelions. Molly is a likable, just-witchy-enough protagonist.

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