Thursday, May 23, 2019
Văn (In a Village by the Sea) sets this magical caper on Mãi Mãi Island, where Little Linh shows readers the items every witch needs (a broomstick, spell book, and winged mouse), then presents her problem: “Do you know what a clever little witch does not need? A baby brother.” Baby Phu, it seems, squalls, chews on spell books, and messes with his sibling’s broomstick. After offering Baby Phu to the island’s otherworldly creatures (they aren’t interested), Linh decides to turn him into a goldfish. He’s eaten the page the spell is printed on, so she improvises, chanting, “From the tip of your nose to the top of your toes, bubble eyes, marble size, let me see those fishy eyes.” The spell doesn’t work, and Yum (Bark in the Park!) draws the resulting mayhem as Baby Phu turns into a succession of animals, none of them goldfish. Yet when all goes awry, it’s Baby Phu who comes to the rescue. Linh has spirit and energy, even when things aren’t going her way, but the story’s real draw lies in its Southeast Asian setting—clever little witches can be found everywhere.