the witch boy

Thursday, December 7, 2017 | | 1 comments
Hi all! It’s been forever and a day, but with the holidays coming up I was thinking about books (the perfect gift)(porque claro), and about which books I’d recommend across different age groups and interests. And one book that I’m happy to recommend to almost anyone is Molly Ostertag’s graphic novel The Witch Boy. It has: magic, coming of age, feeling like an outsider, and making new friends. It also takes a look at gender roles and societal pressure. It is a fun story with a healthy dose of tolerance and empathy – something we could all do with a little more of.

the witch boy by molly ostertag coverEven magic has rules…

Everyone in Aster’s family is born with magic. Boys grow up to be shapeshifters; girls into witches. No exceptions.

But Aster can’t seem to get the hang of shapeshifting. Instead, he spends his time spying on the witchery lessons the girls are getting. He seems to have a knack for casting spells and wants to know more, but the only person he can share his growing gift with is Charlie, a girl from the non-magical side of town.

Then, during a night of shapeshifting practice, one of the boys goes missing. Aster knows he can search for the boy with the witchcraft he’s been secretly learning. Could breaking his family’s most important tradition save the day—or ruin everything?

Aster is a boy, and in his world, boys become shapeshifters. But all Aster is interested in is witchy magic, which only women and girls are allowed to learn. He tries to learn on his own, but he’s discouraged and bullied by turns, until he meets a girl who doesn’t know about magic, and doesn’t care that Aster is interested in the “wrong” kind. When his community is threatened, Aster must find a way to help, using his unique talents, and finally be his true self.

Things I liked: witches! Parents who are alive! Multi-generational, diverse families who are involved in their kids’ lives! Breaking down gendered activities & stereotypes when they don’t work! Also, the beautiful art and vibrant coloring and the sweet story. I’ve praised Ostertag before for doing so much worldbuilding in her art, and The Witch Boy is no exception to that. While the story is solid, it is the art that takes it to the next level, and I can’t wait to see what Ostertag does next.

A friend who read this book early lamented that it lacks subtlety, and I agree. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, though. I know that there are readers who picked up on subtle hints and metaphors from a young age, but I was not that reader. I needed the direct storytelling (sometimes still do – subtext is largely lost on me unless it's religious – thanks, upbringing!) and I know this book will be perfect for kids who like answers and definite endings. 

Another thing: this book has the kid seal of approval! After I read it I passed it along to a coworker who has two boys, ages 11 and 9. Both of them gobbled it up within a weekend and really enjoyed it – their mom was super impressed by how fast they read it!

In all, The Witch Boy is a solidly entertaining graphic novel for middle grade readers, with a great message and lots of heart.

Recommended for: fans of middle grade fantasy, and readers of all ages who like graphic novels and magic.

Fine print: I picked up an ARC of this book at Book Expo for review consideration. I did not accept any compensation for this post.

an enchantment of ravens

A few months ago I was wandering the internet (as you do) when I saw an extremely gorgeous book cover and title combination, and stopped in my tracks. That book was Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens. I read the description and didn’t immediately think “must have it now!” to myself, but I did swoon a bit longer over the cover art before going on my merry way. And then… [cue dramatic music] I kept seeing it pop up, usually with the very highest recommendation. Like, it got to a point where I was pretty sure every book person on the interwebs whose opinion I trust had LOVED it. I knew I had to have it, and then when I got it I loved it EVEN MORE THAN EXPECTED. Ughhh good book is SO good! Friends, I read it twice in one weekend and had to put it IN THE BOOKCASE so as to not keep rereading it every time it caught my eye. It is absolutely charming.

an enchantment of ravens by margaret rogerson book cover
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

An Enchantment of Ravens is seventeen-year-old portraitist Isobel's story. She lives in the never-changing summer of Whimsy, and her clients are dangerous, inhuman fair folk. The folk crave Craft, or human creations, and none so much as Isobel’s masterworks. When she makes an unforgivable mistake by painting human sorrow in the eyes of the autumn prince, Rook, she must risk all that she is to survive.

How fast did I fall in love with this book? By page two! I knew there was a spark of something on page one, when we’re introduced to a fae named Gadfly, who is having his portrait painted while wearing yellow. That’s it, that’s all it took. What can I say, I swoon for allusions and hidden meanings and even if the author didn’t intend it I was picking up something – something charming and lovely and playful. And then on page two, I knew I was 100% in love when Isobel thinks to herself, “Rudeness was not an affordable mistake.” There’s dry humor here, I thought, and I was hooked.

Another reason I found the book so enjoyable was the absolute drama of the fair folk, and especially Rook. He's a wizard Howl (of Howl’s Moving Castle) -level diva and kind of adorable. If you’re not convinced yet, I’ll spoil you very gently by saying this is a “the heroine saves herself” sort of story, and the best kind, at that. In addition to infusing humor and evoking the danger inherent in the fairy realms, Rogerson excels depicting the art of painting, creating relatable (human) family dynamics, and describing the natural world and season-specific foliage in lush details. TL; DR it is a beautifully written book as well as a fun one!

How much did I want and like this book? I stalked my local bookstore last week to pick up an early copy. I canceled my online preorder and went in person and bought it as soon as I could, because I was pretty sure it was going to wreck me (in a good way). Like I was so excited for this book that I couldn’t wait an extra few days until official release day THIRSTY. And it was all warranted.

In all, Rogerson’s debut is a thoroughly delightful take on fairies, and a must-read for young adult fantasy fans.

Recommended for: fans of Diana Wynne Jones, young adult fantasy in general, and any reader who imagines themselves as a smart and capable hero/heroine in their own adventure.

cookiesaurus rex

As an occasional baker and a fan of children's books, I knew I had to check out this picture book. It is only September (and not even chilly out yet!), but I'm already thinking about the winter holidays, frosting cookies, and warm mugs of chocolate and cider. If you bake and will have any small children at hand this winter, Amy Fellner Dominy and Nate Evans’ picture book Cookiesaurus Rex, illustrated by A.G. Ford is a fun read-aloud pick. 

cookiesaurus rex by amy fullner dominy and nate evans book cover
As soon as Cookiesaurus Rex comes out of the oven, he declares that he is King of All Cookies. He should be frosted before all of the standard-shaped cookies, in a nice bright green. But the other cookies are getting sprinkles, or shiny stars, or even gumdrops . . . WAIT ONE STINKIN’ STOMPIN’ MINUTE! Cookiesaurus wants a do-over. Problem is, he might not end up with the kind of “do” he wants. Readers will love the funny back-and-forth between this cheeky cookie and the hand that frosts him. See who gets his licks in at the end!

Cookiesaurus Rex is looking forward to be decorated, but that excitement quickly turns to frustration when he sees his fellow cookies decorated with stars and sprinkles while he only has simple green icing and a black top hat. So Cookiesaurus decides to go rogue – except he doesn't get quite the revenge he wanted. He's decorated as a dinosaur ballerina, a duck, a baby (complete with chocolate chip poo!) instead. In between those episodes he decorates himself as a ninja and a superhero, only for it all to be wiped away. In the end he goes hog wild with decorations and declares himself the King of All Cookies - but there's a catch!

Cookiesaurus Rex is engaging and silly fun, with a cookie main character full of attitude. The dialogue will make kids laugh and adults smile, and the content (and ideas for decoration) would make it the perfect complement or preview to a cookie decorating session. In fact, I was inspired to buy a T. Rex cookie cutter myself and try my hand at recreating some of Cookiesaurus' looks. Unfortunately, I didn't use icing tools so it ended up a little sloppy!


Of course, you don't have to wait for winter to have a cookie-baking and -decorating session, and there's no hint of holiday affiliation in the book itself, so this title works for everyone and year-round fun. Cookiesaurus' antics are sure to amuse and inspire all who read the book.

In all, Cookiesaurus Rex is a fun, sassy picture book suitable for all ages, and especially for bakers and their minions.

Recommended for: fans of baking, cookies, dinosaurs and dialogue-heavy picture books (the ones you do voices with!).

Cookiesaurus Rex will be released by Disney-Hyperion on September 26th, 2017.

Interested in other food-related posts? Check out Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking!

Fine print: I received an advance copy of this title for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

spinning blog tour - interview with author tillie walden

Today’s post is part of the blog tour for Tillie Walden’s illustrated memoir, Spinning. Walden is the author of one of my favorite webcomics, On A Sunbeam, and is a decorated comics artist as well as an all-around lovely person. Read on for an interview and a brief review of Spinning!


It seemed like one of the themes of this book was solitude and a sort of loneliness, even when deeply involved in a team sport. Do you/did you recognize that as you put together the story?
Honestly, no! I noticed it afterwards. Which is hilarious to me now. It’s amazing how blind we are to ourselves and our patterns. But I’m glad that comes out in the book. I think it’s very easy to believe that team sports are an endless show of camaraderie and togetherness, but I found it all extremely isolating. And I imagine I’m not the only person to feel that way. Ice rinks, to me, are also especially lonely places. They’re freezing cold, and they’re either full of bright lights or kind of stuck in the shadows. And those locker rooms were just depressing. Full of leftover air from the ice and stressed out girls in full make up.

Writing and illustrating a memoir means drawing younger you a lot - did you find that easy/difficult/in-between? Did you refer to pictures?
I didn’t use pictures to reference. I was pretty easy to draw, luckily. I had long blonde hair and glasses, and I just sort of ran with that. I knew going into it that my drawings of myself would be interpretations, so I was ok with any inaccuracies.

What's the last thing you read (aside from your own work), and what are you reading now?
Omg, I love this question. I wish people asked me this more. SO, the last thing I read was The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, and it was totally amazing. But all the prose I read is almost entirely mystery or crime dramas. I’m a little obsessed. And currently I’m reading the next book after The Devotion of Suspect X, which is called Salvation of a Saint. They’re detective thrillers set in Tokyo. Come on, how could I not read this?

tillie walden
Tillie Walden is a two-time Ignatz Award–winning cartoonist from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Her comics include The End of Summer and I Love This Part, an Eisner Award nominee.

Interested in reading more about Spinning and Tillie? Check out the full tour schedule here, or just click on any of the links below!


Have I convinced you to pick up Spinning yet? If not, check out my mini-review below!

spinning by tillie walden book cover
Figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing in glitter and tights. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But as Tillie's interests evolve, from her growing passion for art to a first love realized with a new girlfriend, she begins to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fits in.

Poignant and captivating, this powerful graphic memoir captures what it's like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

Tillie Walden grew up figure skating, and while she found success on the ice, she faced many challenges off it. Those awkward, weird, and sometimes wonderful young adult years are detailed in her beautifully illustrated graphic memoir, Spinning.

I identified strongly with Tillie’s experiences skating as both an individual and in a team – I was a competitive swimmer all the way through college. The isolation of competition, the gossip and enforced together-ness of the team all resonated. Pair that with Tillie’s scholastic struggles, her forays in youthful friendship, burgeoning artistic talent, and her relationship with her first girlfriend, and the book is brimming with all of the bits and pieces of life that seem to come at you 100mph during the teenage years. It’s not easy, of course, and Tillie’s experiences with bullies and worse are detailed as well. Tillie has written and illustrated not only her life from memory, but also a highly relatable book for teens and young women everywhere. It’s honest and beautiful and poignant and sad and all of the things that life is while you’re living it. I loved it.

Recommended for: young women ages 11 and up, especially introverts, artists, and those into sports.

Fine print: I received an advance copy of this title for review consideration. I did not receive any compensation for this post.
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