The Tragical Tale of Birdie Bloom

368p. HarperCollins/Harper. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062835833.
Gr 3–5—In this light fantasy debut, Birdie Bloom, a young resident of Foulweather's Home for the Tragical, unknowingly begins a correspondence with a bored witch and dramatically changes her life and the lives of the people around her. In Wanderly, Chancellor-approved stories describe what one's life can be; for a Tragical, there aren't any good possibilities. Even the witch Agnes Prunella Crunch is restricted to the spells contained in The Book of Evil Deeds. Agnes, who is more grumpy than scary, finds nothing satisfying in this book so she writes a letter which the Winds of Wanderly decide to take to Birdie's isolated home, where Birdie and the other children are learning important Tragical skills. This story has dragons, large insects, and discussions of eating a child, but the worst that happens to the child is that the rubber on his sneakers melts. The majority of the characters are well rounded and experience growth as the story progresses. Most of the witches are described as "ugly."(Agnes is "saggy" and "squishy" and not at all fond of glitter.) The story can be overly cute at times, especially in the extensive footnotes, but young readers may find this more entertaining than annoying.
VERDICT Recommended for filling out fantasy collections with a light, not-too-scary offering.

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