Jess's Story

HEPPERMANN, Christine & . illus. by Deborah Marcero. 192p. glossary. (Backyard Witch). HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Jul. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062338419.
Gr 2–4—Jess is a great athlete, with normal kid appetites for things like peanut butter and pizza. She just can't seem to please her chef mom, who wants her to enjoy tofu and truffle oil. Enter Ms. M, a witch introduced in the first book in the series. Ms. M becomes Jess's babysitter, taking her on mini-adventures and helping her to (mildly) expand her tastes and her confidence. Ms. M is an entertaining character but does not quite live up to her foremothers, Mary Poppins and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. She offers Jess needed attention but not much guidance and is a catalyst for only minor growth, if any. While the mother/daughter conflict abates somewhat at the end of the story, the resolution seems sudden and temporary. References to the plot of Sadie's Story (HarperCollins, 2015) appear frequently, making this a true sequel and best appreciated by readers of the first installment. Gentle line drawings illustrate this pleasant, if somewhat bland, story. Back matter includes "Ms. M's Tips for Young Chefs," a recipe from the story for grilled tofu with Thai peanut sauce, and a glossary of herbs.
VERDICT An additional purchase for larger chapter book collections, or where the first title has fans.

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