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. 

CLEVER LITTLE WITCH review from Kirkus

With the help of a little magic, a young witch tries to make her annoying baby brother more tolerable.Little Linh has all she needs to be "the cleverest little witch on Mãi Mãi Island": a broomstick, a "book of powerful spells," and a "rare and magical pet" (a glowing, winged mouse). What she does not need is a baby brother. Baby brothers sneak disastrous rides on your trusty broomstick, eat your spell book, use your pets against you, and disturb your sleep. No one else seems to need or want Baby Phu either—not the troll under the bridge, not the fairy queen in the forest, and certainly not the werewolves at the Orphanage for Lost and Magical Creatures. Naturally, magic will solve the little witch's brother problem. With her spell book partially eaten, Little Linh gamely casts spell after half-concocted spell with the intent to transform Baby Phu into a nice goldfish. The results, though, are not quite what she had hoped. Her guesswork to repair the spell goes "terribly, terribly wrong"—but it turns out that having a little brother might just prove to be a lucky thing. Yum's illustrations (acrylic gouache and color pencil) alternate perspectives and angles, energetically capturing the escalating sibling situation. Readers will recognize the looks of mischief, innocence, and determination on Little Linh's and Baby Phu's faces. Creatures—familiar and fantastical alike—give clues to the impending magical misfires taking place on this Southeast Asian island. A charming take on sibling conflict. (Picture book. 4-6)