Category Archives: magic

Witchy Wonders

As part of my eldest daughter’s “13th birthday in Boston” celebration it was her decision how to spend the morning before our drive home.  Possible options included a trip to the Museum of Science, Boston for the opening day of the “Science of Pixar” exhibit or visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a locale from our favorite Boston based middle-reader book Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne.

In the end it was the irrepressible draw of Salem that determined how we would spend our final hours.   The allure of history and witchcraft is powerful, and the heart of our visit was really to just get the feel of the place.  Salem is peppered with hokey museums and theme driven gift shops, but actually being present in a location full of witchcraft lore totally overpowered the touristy vibe.  We took the obligatory, if outdated, tour of the Salem Witch Museum, had a delicious chowder lunch, and picked up dessert at the Salem Ice-Screamery.   All-in-all it was a worthwhile diversion and time well spent, especially the time browsing the gift shop bookshelves for witchy reads!   This Halloween, if you can’t be in Salem, pick up one of these fun, fantasy or non-fiction books to discover a new view on witches and witchcraft.

room on broomRoom on the Broom by Julia Donaldson – A little witch gets some help from some special animal friends but now they all want a ride on her broom….will there be room for everyone? (PB)

witchWitches by Cheryl Christian – Adorable rhymes bring to life this story of Halloween preparations for a group of little witches. (PB)


littlewitchLittle Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett – This 60th anniversary edition brings the story of the very reluctant little witch, Minx, to a whole new generation.  Although it sounds fun to be the daughter of a witch, Minx just wants to be a normal girl.  She takes it upon herself to attend the local school and her adventures are heartwarming and fun.  (ER-2) 

worst witchThe Worst Witch by Jill Murphy – Mildred Hubble is the ready for her first year at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, but things aren’t as easy as she thought they’d be and, just when it can’t get much worse, it seems she’s made Ethel, the favorite student, her sworn enemy.   A funny, fun precursor for witch crazy readers not quite ready to tackle Harry Potter. (ER-2)

witches dahlThe Witches by Roald Dahl –  The enduring tales  Grandmamma tells are about witches, real witches, that look just like regular people.  But they hate children, and the warning stories are never more important than when coming face to face with the Grand High Witch!  A true classic tale as only Dahl can tell it!  (MR-4)

truesalemWitches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer – This award-winning retelling of the hysteria that shook Salem in 1692, told in engaging text and highlighted by riveting illustrations.  (MR -5/6)


blackbird pondThe Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare –  In 1687, Kit is uprooted from her home and thrust into a new life in colonial Connecticut.  As she struggles to find her way in these new harsh surroundings she finds happiness a new friendship with Hannah Tupper, but Hannah is believed to be a witch.  Can Kit hold true to her heart, and what she knows is right?  Or will duty sway her in these difficult times?  1959 Newbery Award Winner (MR – 6)

crucibleThe Crucible: A Play in Four Acts by Arthur Miller –  Not just for High School English classes anymore, this classic tale of mass hysteria, based on actual events of the Salem Witch Trials, is fascinating as an historical observation.  Take it to another level – when placed in context of the political climate during its writing, the vilifying McCarthy era, it is a social commentary on the power of group mentality.  (YA)

Check out some spooky witchy reads from Mom’s Bookshelf.

deliverancedanceThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe – Connie Goodwin is spending the summer cleaning the dilapidated old house in Salem, left to her family by her grandmother, and working on her doctoral proposal.  While cleaning she comes across a lead on original historic source that could change her academic work, her relationship with her advisor and her understanding of her family’s history. (MBS)

discoveryofwitchesA Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – After a lifetime suppressing her abilities as a witch in favor of academic research, Diana Bishop discovers an ancient manuscript that pushes her to acknowledge her gifts, embrace and challenge the relationships between creatures, and redefine her beliefs.  The story continues in Shadow of Night and concludes in The Book of Life. (MBS)

witchesdaughterThe Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – Centuries ago Bess watched her mother hang as a witch, and her desire to escape the same fate led her to Gideon, who awakened power in her – but who has chased her across the centuries to exact payment for saving her life.  Now, in the 21st century, Bess has discovered a young protege.  In sharing her knowledge Bess has awakened feelings she’s kept hidden, but also led Gideon back to claim her soul.   Continue the story of Bess and Gideon in the upcoming sequel The Return of the Witch (publication date 3/8/16)  or discover more “witch” stories by Paula Brackston: The Midnight WitchThe Winter Witch, and The Silver Witch. (MBS)

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Filed under Halloween, History, magic, Mom's Bookshelf, Uncategorized, witch

N is for….

Magical creatures are real…and your family is charged with protecting them from harm!

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist Series by R.L. LaFevers

In 1928 Nathaniel Flood’s parents are lost at sea, and he is sent to live with his Aunt Phil, a renowned Beastologist.   As Nathaniel and Aunt Phil embark on amazing adventures he discovers first-hand the Fludd family legacy- to care for and protect magical creatures at all costs.    Nathaniel encounters gremlins, a dodo-bird, phoenix and more as he begins to understand the importance of his new position as a Beastologist-in-training.   A little bit history, a dash of magic, a commitment to family, and a good dose of mystery make Nathaniel Fludd a delightful magical hero for the pre-Harry Potter set! (ER-2/3)

nathanielfluddphoenixFlight of the Phoenix – In Nathaniel’s first adventure he barely has time to process the loss of his parents and adapt to his new home with Aunt Phil, the famous Beastologist, before he is whisked off to the Arabian desert to witness the birth of a Phoenix egg!    When Aunt Phil is kidnapped is Nathaniel up to the task of protecting the Phoenix egg?  Does he have what it takes to live up to his family name, and be a true Beastologist?  And was is wise to befriend a gremlin?  (Aunt Phil doesn’t think so!)

nathanielfluddbasiliskThe Basilisk’s Lair – Nathaniel is off to save a Dhughani village from a mysterious, missing, deadly serpent – a basilisk!  On top of this terrifying task, Nate and Aunt Phil must protect The Fludd Book of Beasts from a sinister thief.  And Nathaniel is convinced his parents disappearance isn’t what it seems – if only he can figure out how to find them.  Filled with non-stop adventure Nathaniel Fludd continues his Beastologist training, and with help from some friends, begins to discover his destiny.

nathanielfluddwyvernThe Wyverns’ Treasure – On their return to England Nathaniel and Aunt Phil discover their home has been ransacked!  Who could have done this?  Were they looking for the Book of Beasts?  No time to find out – Nate and Aunt Phil are off to Wales to help stop a Wyvern uprising.  Nate has to calm the giant dragons and restore order before he can figure out how to protect the family book.

nathanielfluddunicornThe Unicorn’s Tale – All Nate wants is to find his parents, who he is convinced are alive.  But Aunt Phil insists that Beastology takes precedence – and when a Unicorn becomes ill Nate must care for it.  And the mysterious evil man is still after them, the Book of Beasts, and the creatures they care for.  Will Nathaniel ever reunite his family and become a full Beastologist?

PBP Note: R.L. LaFevers is also the author of the Theodosia Throckmorton books- this unique heroine tackles mummies, ghosts, curses, and evil archaeologists in 1906 London.  This MR-4/5 series is a Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite.

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Filed under A to Z, animals, Early Readers, magic, series, travel

M is for…

Two ordinary kids, a tree-house in the woods, and books about every subject imaginable.  Add a little magic, mystery, and adventure and you’ve got the classic early-reader series that transports every kid to places they’ve only dreamed of!

Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osbourne

Jack and Annie, siblings from Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, are transported through time and space to help the mythical Morgan LeFay save the library at Camelot.  Along the way they meet dinosaurs, visit ancient Egypt, tackle ninjas, sail on the Titanic, immerse themselves in American History, and more!   Each book is its own stand-alone adventure, but the books connect in groups of 4 to solve larger mysteries. There is a Magic Treehouse story to complement just about any trip, holiday, or historical event.

These are great stories for those ready to tackle chapter books.  However, they are perfect for older Pre-K and Kindergarten readers who are ready for a complex read-aloud.   Suitable for a wide range of readers, Magic Treehouse books address a variety of experiences in an age appropriate way.  And for more inquisitive readers, the Magic Treehouse Fact-Trackers are fantastic non-fiction companions to the series.  For even more check out to play and learn with Jack & Annie.

*A Paperback Pigeon All-Time Top 10 Favorite*

mth1-4Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-4: Dinosaurs Before Dark, The Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, and Pirates Past Noon – Real dinosaurs?  Medieval Knights?  Ancient Egypt? Swashbuckling Pirates?   Adventure is just a turn of the page as Jack & Annie begin to discover the magic in their treehouse! (ER-K-3)

mth5-8Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 5-8: Night of the Ninjas, Afternoon on the Amazon, Sunset of the Sabertooth, and Midnight on the Moon –  Time and space are no match for the Magic Treehouse – or for Jack & Annie – when they travel to ancient Japan, voyage down the Amazon River, tackle the Ice Age and land on the Moon!!!

mth1-28Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 1-28 – Sets of 4 books just not enough to satisfy your curious reader?  Get all 28 of the original Magic Treehouse Books and join Jack & Annie for every single magical, mystical adventure from Shakespeare’s England to George Washington’s Revolutionary War encampment.

mthchristmasincamelotChristmas in Camelot (Magic Tree House, No. 29) – In the first book in the Magic Treehouse Merlin Missions, Jack & Annie take on more mythical challenges.  The series elevates in reading level, growing with its readers, as well as in content depth and story length. (ER-2/3)

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, animals, Asia, Early Readers, europe, History, Holiday, magic, mystery, North America, series, Time Travel, Uncategorized, United States

K is for….

Too old for fairy godmothers and a little too tween for the magic of the mouse?  What if it wasn’t just a fantasyland…and all of it was real…especially the evil, wicked and villainous!

Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson

Five kids – Finn, Willa, Charlene, Maybeck and Philby –  are chosen to be the new Disney Host Interactives – DHIs – essentially holographic images that can guide guests through the Disney parks.  Except when the real kids go to sleep they wake up as their holograms, in the park where, with the help of an elderly mentor imagineer named Wayne, they realize that there is a battle going on – and they’ve been recruited to help take down the most evil forces Walt Disney ever created.  MR -5/6

*PBP Note: I’ve never read these books….but I’ve listened to them.   I recommend them for those tweens who might be feeling that a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” is beneath them, or for those who’ve been to Disney often enough that it’s time for a new twist on an old favorite.   It is a fun ride, but don’t think too hard, or expect too much.   The first book is the best, and a great read before a trip to Disney for your upper middle reader who is looking for a new spin on what happens when the parks are closed.   I was willing to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the first 4 books – each of which highlight a different DisneyWorld park.  As the books progress, the characters age, so be prepared for the story to get bogged down with love interests as well as excessive secondary characters.  Also, as technology changes quickly, you’ll  note some outdated references in the earlier books. Consider downloading the audiobook to an ipod or mp3 player for the plane ride or listen as a family on the drive to Florida.  Who knows what magic you might encounter?

kingdomkeepers1DADKingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark – Finn is having the most vivid dream, until he realizes it isn’t a dream at all!  He is one of 5 new Disney Host Interactives – holograms that guide guests through the Disney parks.  But there is a glitch – when the kids fall asleep they wake up as their holograms and are charged to battle the evil forces trying to take over the park.  Can these 5 new friends find a way to work together, appreciate each others strengths, and keep the Magic Kingdom safe?  See what happens when the parks close and the real excitement begins.

kingdomkeepers2DADKingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn-The Kingdom Keepers are back – this time a mysterious lightning storm at Magic Kingdom triggers events that could destroy the DHI’s forever.  They head to the Animal Kingdom where the latest DHI technology is ready to be put in place, but they only have until daylight to foil the plans of the Overtakers and secure the park.  If they can’t work together will this mean the end of the Kingdom Keepers forever?

kingdomkeepers3DISKingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow – Wayne is missing and it is up to the Kingdom Keepers to find him – fast!  A whirlwind adventure through Epcot has the team meeting new villains and old nemesis.  Struggling to keep calm and stay focused as the stakes get higher, can the DHIs find Wayne and get home safely before their cover is blown?

kingdomkeepers4PPKingdom Keepers IV: Power Play –  Life is almost back to normal for the Kingdom Keepers.  With key Overtakers locked down things are pretty calm for the DHIs – until Philby receives a mysterious video, new Overtakers pop up in Downtown Disney and Charlene starts acting strangely.  It is time to take action in Hollywood Studios and Typhoon Lagoon to protect the power center for the DHI server before the Overtakers create their own series of holograms – or is it too late?

kingdomkeepers5SGKingdom Keepers V: Shell Game – With a huge promotional voyage on the Disney Dream ahead the Kingdom Keepers are ready to tackle the high seas.  Unfortunately, the Overtakers are using this journey to regroup.  They’ve stolen one of Walt Disney’s personal journals -with cryptic information that could lead to a takeover.  From aboard ship to Castaway Cay, the Kingdom Keepers have to find a way to stop the Overtakers – and figure out just what they are trying to accomplish aboard the Dream.  But who can the Kingdom Keepers trust, and are they starting to lose faith in each other?

kingdomkeepers6DPKingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage -As the Disney Dream makes its way through the Panama Canal things are heating up for the Kingdom Keepers.  The magic more intense and the stakes higher than ever – can the team keep it together long enough to solve the mystery of the Overtakers plans?  How will they defeat the most evil creature Disney ever imagined – and will they all see the end of this voyage?

kingdomkeepers7IKingdom Keepers VII: The Insider  – As high school seniors the Kingdom Keepers have spent the past three years in relative quiet.  Their trip aboard the Disney Dream is part of the past, and the Overtakers defeated.  Until they stage an unexpected comeback that requires the team to be back in action.    A long-lost icon is their only hope to protect Disneyland – the original park that started the magic.

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Filed under A to Z, Disney, magic, Middle Reader, mystery, series, travel

Spookiest Stories of All…

It’s Halloween!  That time of the year where spooks and ghouls are around every corner and kids of all ages dare to scare.  There are unlimited seasonal favorites for everyone to get in the mood for a night of frights.  For the budding witch or wizard The Worst Witch (MR-3/4) and Harry Potter (MR-4/5, RA) are classics that bring to life the mystery and magic of witchcraft.  Join Creepella von Cacklefur (MR-3/4) as Geronimo Stilton’s creepiest friend meets up with ghosts, pirates and vampires!  Perhaps your child would like nothing more that to move to Scream Street (MR-4/5) where the government agency G.H.O.U.L has relocated young werewolf Luke Watson to live with witches, zombies and vampires!  Maybe you have a little ghoul made of sterner stuff who gets a thrill from being scared silly – try R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps (MR-4/5) series or Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories  (MR- 4 & up).  The Short & Shivery (MR-4/5) series by Robert D. San Souci shares spooky tales from around the globe, putting a multi-cultural spin on the universal thrill of being terrified!

For my family one series stands out.  More sweet than spooky, filled with ghosts, vampires and mysterious happenings, Araminta Spookie stories are an all-time favorite.  Araminta first captured my heart when Shakespeare was a first grader with her own unique interests.  As I’ve stated before, there aren’t any “bad” books for beginning readers.  (See my post Reading is Reading).  The trouble for Shakespeare is that she was an advanced reader, but totally uninterested in “traditional” girl books.

Then we stumbled upon Araminta.  She’s kooky and crazy.  She lives with her aunt and vampire uncle in a haunted house.   She loves the bats in the belfry and the coat of armor in the hall.   We had finally found a heroine that was strong and crafty, quick-witted and quirky, proud of who she is and willing to fight to preserve her family identity.  All that, and age appropriate!December 08 153

I adored Araminta from the start, and no more so than on Christmas morning when Shakespeare received the latest book and abandoned unopened gifts to curl up on the couch and dive into the latest installment.  Proof positive of the compelling power of reading when you discover a character to identify with.

Araminta does have spooky characters, so be cautious if your young reader is sensitive to scares.  But Araminta is a refreshing member of the early reader genre for those who look for the supernatural beyond the world of fairies – and with her sidekick, Edmund the ghost, she appeals to both boys and girls in search of a spooktacular series  – anytime of the year.

aramintahauntedhouseMy Haunted House  is the first book in the Araminta Spookie series by Angie Sage.  Araminta loves her haunted house!  But her Aunt Tabby – who is never in a good mood – wants to move and she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.  It is time for Araminta to take matters into her own hands and, with the help of some of the houses more supernatural residents, plans an Awful Ambush guaranteed to keep anyone from buying their house.  But will it work?  Or will Araminta find herself packing? (ER-1-3)

araminaswordingrottoThe Sword in the Grotto The second installment in Araminta’s story finds her searching for the perfect gift for Sir Horace’s 500th birthday.  But what do you get a suit of armor?  When the search puts Araminta and new friend Wanda in danger they wonder if they’ll even survive to make it to the party!

aramintafrognappedFrognapped  Araminta didn’t do it!  Barry’s frogs have gone missing and everyone blames Araminta.  Sure, Araminta is usually at fault  when things go wrong, but this time she’s not responsible and she’s going to prove it.  A mysterious aquarium show and a cast of creepy characters won’t deter Araminta as she sets out to rescue the frogs!

aramintavampirebratVampire Brat A werewolf in the hidden passages below the house?  Araminta is sure of it and is going to prove it.  Then Max arrives, her Uncle Drac’s nephew, and he’s full of terrifying trouble as he’s creeping around the house.  Can Araminta figure out what Max is up to, and capture the werewolf?  Nothing can stop Araminta when she sets her mind to it!

aramintaghostsittersGhostsitters Isn’t it awful enough that Aunt Tabby and Uncle Drac are going to Transylvania and missing Araminta’s birthday?  Nope, it’s worse.  They’ve hired a babysitter! Things are looking up when the babysitter turns out to be Araminta’s super-cool teen cousin, Mathilda.  Until the twin trouble-making ghosts she brought with her wreak havoc on Spookie House.  How will Araminta stop them and save her birthday?

For slightly older readers Araminta author Angie Sage also wrote the Septimus Heap series – a magical story about the seventh son of a seventh son, who holds the key to defeating the Necromancer DomDaniel and saving his world from darke magic. (MR-4/5)


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Filed under Halloween, magic, mystery, series

B is for….

There is something magical when you catch a whiff of the delightful scents wafting from the door of a bakery.  Whether at home in your local bake shop or discovering a local bakery on your travels, the sights and smells of fresh bread and handmade pastries are truly magical.  So grab a cupcake and take a bite out of one of the bakery books.

Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood

Rosemary Bliss has always known her family bakery was special.  They make the most delicious treats, but her mother also seems to be able to make things “happen” with some of her special recipes.  It all comes from the magical Bliss Cookery Booke filled with secret recipes and concoctions.   Cook up some fun with the Bliss kids in these delicious adventures. MR/3-6

blissBliss  by Kathryn Littlewood – When their parents go out of town Rosemary and her siblings are put in charge of the Bliss Cookery Booke.  Keeping the book locked up seems easy until mysterious “Aunt” Lily shows up.  Suddenly the Bliss kids want to experiment and show Lily what they can do in the  kitchen – one little recipe from the book couldn’t cause any trouble, right?  And even though Lily is rebellious and crazy and fun, Rosemary isn’t quite sure she should trust her.

blissdashofmagicA Dash of Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Littlewood – In this second book it is up to Rosemary to return the Bliss Cookery Book to it’s rightful place – by engaging in baking competition – against Aunt Lily – in Paris!


blissbitesizedmagieBite-Sized Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Lilttlewood – Rosemary’s past successes have made her famous, so much so that she’s been kidnapped by an international snack-cake mogul who wants to use her special recipes to take over the world!   The Bliss kids are ready to work together to stop this madman and save Rose and their family legacy.

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Filed under A to Z, cooking, magic, Middle Reader, mystery