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  • Helen

Witch for a Week by Kaye Umansky

Elsie is used to her humdrum life working in her parents' (self-admitted) tat shop. Having learnt the Customer Service rules (such as be friendly, be helpful, and always pretend the customer is right, even when they're clearly wrong), she is expert at dealing with all the boring and ordinary customers who frequent the shop (many in need of a listening ear more than spending money). When local witch Magenta Sharp swirls into town (leaving a small trail of chaos and disorganisation in her wake) and asks to put an ad up (hey, even witches need someone to house — I mean, tower-sit for them), Elsie finds herself drawn to the task. Accepting the job, Elsie vows not to meddle with anything to do with magic, and just to relax and read lots of Magenta's books.

As good intentions go, Elsie's magic-free vow comes from the right place (meddling with magic is not something she wants to put on her to-do list), and she does manage to stick to her guns... for two days. To be fair, when faced with a spells-worth of magic that Must Be Used Immediately, Elsie didn't really have much choice.

Aided by a talking raven, a humming tower, and some weird and wonderful neighbours (some definitely more friendly than others), Elsie dabbles in magic and finds she not only loves it, but possibly has a talent for it too. The question is, will Magenta return to find her tower all as it was, or will some inadvertent havoc be caused, and can Elsie fix it in time...?

This book is pure magic — that is, magic to read — and I loved it. Elsie is such a brilliant main character, and you can't help but be charmed by her. The assortment of characters she befriends over her week in the woods is delightful, ranging from the ditzy but nice Aggie — I mean, Sylphine — to the extremely lovable stray dog Nuisance.

Truth be told, I have one complaint about this book — I desperately wish the book of Everything You Need to Know was real, but otherwise, it was a delight that I didn't want to end. Yet again, Ashley King's illustrations bring the text wonderfully to life, adding humour and extra magic. Perfect for fans of Mango & Bambang, Sylvia Bishop, for those who enjoy magical stories and/or have always wanted to live as a witch for a week.

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