The Itty-Bitty Witch (Trisha Speed Shaskan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Itty-Bitty Witch, written by Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrated by Xindi Yan, a witchy lesson in believing in oneself.

Betty is thrilled to start her first day of school as a “first-grade” witch. However, she’s scarcely in the door before she’s the subject of teasing from two of the other girls, who pick on her smaller size and “kinder-broom”. They dub her “Itty Bitty”, and despite her firm protests of “My name is Betty!”, the young witch can’t help but be hurt by the other girls’ words, feeling itty-bitty on the inside. Upon learning of the school’s annual Halloween Dash broom race, Betty sees the chance to prove herself and earn her classmates’ respect. She gives her all in training, but finds that her smaller size make some maneuvers even more difficult. Can Betty find her groove before the big race, and prove that she’s as formidable an opponent as any other witch?

Encouraging and sweet. Betty’s tale is a classic story of learning to love oneself despite bullying or detractors, and finding one’s strengths to lean into. By the end, it’s Betty’s sharp mind that proves her secret weapon, and her small size ends up being an asset in the race as well. And while the bullies of the book come around to Betty a bit quickly to feel organic, the most important development is that Betty has grown to believe in herself, and no longer lets the words of others make her feel “itty-bitty inside”. It’s an important lesson for young bookworms wrapped in a fun, Halloween-themed package (though this one could certainly be enjoyed year-round). The soft, expressive cartoon characters are winning, and the palette creates a spooky/cute vibe. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed it (in particular, one classmate’s repeated exclamation of “Wicked!”). A sweet Halloween tale with a timeless message, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Halloween Sky Ride (Elizabeth Spurr)

(Note: This review was delayed due to a family illness)

Halloween Week, Day 7: Happy Halloween! Unfortunately, we spent our Spooky Day this year feeling very, VERY under the weather, so no costumes or trick-or-treating for us. However, we did get to celebrate in one way: by reading our last Halloween Week book, Halloween Sky Ride, written by Elizabeth Spurr and illustrated by Ethan Long.

Witch Mildred is invited to the Witches’ Wobble, and she’s thrilled to attend. As she flies there on her broom, she passes several spooky creatures asking to catch a lift: a jack-o-lantern, a cat, a skeleton, etc. Witch Mildred kindly makes some space on her broom for everyone, until CRACK! Her broom snaps under the pressure. And so begins a spirited story of fun, festivities and friendship.

We loved this book! It was a perfect read for Halloween: fun and silly, but not too scary, adorable illustrations, and a cheerful rhyming narrative that was a delight to read. It explored lots of staples of the Halloween holiday (trick-or-treating, Halloween foods, etc), and still managed to have the excellent overall lesson that friendship is what makes the holidays so special. This is a perfect Halloween book for baby bookworms, and we highly recommend it for your next Spooky Day! Baby Bookworm approved!

Strega Nona Does It Again (Tomie dePoala)

Banned Books Week, Day 2: Hello, friends! We are continuing our Banned Books Week theme today with Strega Nona Does It Again by Tomie dePoala, the latest in the Strega Nona (Italian for “Grandmother Witch”) book series. These books have been challenged and/or banned in multiple locations because of their positive portrayal of magic and witches.

Strega Nona is expecting a visit from her cousin’s daughter, the beautiful Angelina. When Angelina arrives, Strega Nona and her friends find that she is quite a handful: she is self-centered and rude, and turns their lives upside-down by making them wait on her hand and foot! Strega Nona decides to concoct a plan to win the heart of Angelina’s beloved Hugo for her, in order to get her demanding houseguest out of her hair, and weaves a little magic along the way.

I have to say, while I have enjoyed the Strega Nona books in the past, I did not like this one. While the folk-art illustrations are always charming and fun, and I love that there is a smattering of Italian vocabulary words and phrases, I disagreed with this book’s overall message. Angelina is spoiled and impolite, so Strega Nona decides to teach her a lesson by… giving her exactly what she wants? Rewarding her for her egocentric behavior? Also, I’m not wild about the notion of marrying a woman of as punishment. From a practical standpoint, the book was also a bit long for JJ, and she started getting squirmy (though, again, she loved the illustrations). 

I’ve been a fan of the Strega Nona books past, but I just don’t think I can call this one Baby Bookworm approved. However, I would definitely encourage readers to check out the previous Strega Nona stories, which are fun and have much better lessons.