Earwig was left in a basket on the doorstep of St Morwald’s Home for Children with a note suggesting she had been left there by a witch. Choosing to ignore the note, the headmistress renames the baby Erica Wigg and treats her like all the other children. Earwig is happy at St Morwald’s , and why not? In her prickly way, she uses her “strange abilities” to get what she wants from her favorite lunch to a new red sweater. It’s clear from her actions and attitude that she is not your normal child, and Zelinsky’s line drawings emphasize her spirited, even cantankerous nature, with hair that sticks straight out and a devilish grin.
Earwig would be happy to stay at St Morwald’s, but she meets her match when Bella Yaga and the Mandrake arrive and choose Earwig to adopt. Unfortunately for Earwig, the couple wants her because they need an assistant. Bella Yaga is a witch, and she needs someone to do her dirty work. From the start, Earwig is told that all will be well as long as she complies with Bella Yaga’s demands.
What else can Earwig do but make their breakfasts, grind the potions, do the cleaning and gather the herbs? But she isn’t happy.
As she explores the house, Earwig discovers many things are not as they appear. Rooms change boundaries, smells and sights appear and disappear, and Thomas, the black cat, can talk to her! Together Earwig and Thomas explore Bella Yaga’s book of spells, and they begin to work some magic of their own. She and Thomas manage to create several magic spells, getting the better of Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, showng her true colors as a very talented witch, indeed! With her powers now in full force, she decides she definitely likes her new home. In this slim fantasy chapter book, Wynne Jones weaves a tantalizing, mysterious, and amusing adventure. Earwig is an original. Though she is argumentative and manipulative, she steals the show, as she deviously overcomes difficult circumstances. Using her magic, Earwig regains control of her life; there is no question about who the boss is. Zelinsky’s simple art, with wonderful pencil line drawings of Earwig, Bella Yaga, and the Mandrake are full of humorous details, and the frogs that appear on each page are not to be missed! This is a wonderful introduction to fantasy fiction for children stepping up to reading full-fledged novels.It has a lightness, charm, and humor that will capture a new generation of fantasy readers.
Reviewed by JJ
Themes: Magic, Fantasy, Orphans, Relationships
Greenwillow Books, 2012
Suggested Ages: 7 and Up