r&r librarian

R & R is reading and reviewing. One of the links o’er there–she points to the right–is The Picnic Basket. I requested one of the books featured on the site. The site shares reviews of kiddielit. Once a Witch is YA. It arrived in the mail yesterday. I read it today. I reviewed it. Here ’tis (also cross-posted at my languishing reading blog):

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Everyone in her family has a Talent, except for Tamsin. She’s clever, sassy, and seventeen, but simply cannot compare to her stunningly beautiful, charming, older sister, Rowena. Tamsin isn’t a witch, like everyone else she’s related to. She struggles with that fact since her eight birthday party when her Talent never manifested. As a disappointment to her family, she adopts an outsider identity which most readers can relate to. She escapes the familiar witchy commune in search of normalcy–a Manhattan boarding school. She leads a normal life of sneaking cigarettes, studying for SATs, and brandishing fake I.D.s to enter clubs and drink beer, until, one day, her older sister Rowena, is not herself.

After handsome, older Alistair Callum walks into her grandmother’s bookshop, Tamsin accepts the task of locating a lost object for Callum. The project sends her back in time to 1939 and 1887 where she encounters several ancestors. As her true Talent dawns, she must preserve not just her sister’s life, but her kinfolks’ way of life.

Tamsin’s tale illustrates the universality of unrealized talents and their uniqueness and the importance of family. MacCullough’s writing is sophisticated, captivating, and promises cross-over appeal to adults. The occasional sexual innuendo, stealthily smokes cigarettes, and normal teen rebellion is nothing shocking. MacCullough surely casts a spell on readers; I reluctantly put Once a Witch down two or three times and am still smiling at certain lines, like this one, “She gave me a fleeting smile, a lip spasm, really…” (75) Her storytelling is brisk and packed with action. The open-ended resolution promises more installments of Tamsin’s adventures.

Strongly recommended.

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