The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan 2010
Henry Holt Books For Young Readers
Release Date: Today!
IQ "Our words were a shaky ladder; all I could do was climb, uncertain if I was about to surmount a glorious peak or fall and smash myself upon the rocks below." Prunella pg. 262
Prunella Bogthistle wants to be a proper bog witch, she wants to have warts and be able to finally cast evil spells. She needs to be uglier and meaner or her family will continue to view her as a failure. Barnaby is a former-thief who needs to prove himself a hero, by recovering the Mirable Chalice. He trespasses into Prunella's grandmother's garden even though it is strictly off limits because he thinks the bogwitches have it. Prunella was left in charge to watch the garden (which has some fabulous asparagus) and she accidentally lets
Barnaby escape, resulting in her basnihment from her home, the Boglands. Her grandmother will not allow her to come back until she has proven herself to be a truly evil bog witch. Prunella sets off with Barnaby to find the Chalice, because the person who has the Chalice also has a book of powerful spells that will make Prunella the best and most fearsome bog witch. She'll show everyone, if she can survive traveling through the non magical Uplands.
My only minor quibbles with this book concern the lack of information about Prunella's family. Why was she living with her grandmother? What happened to her parents? I was really curious and I hoped it would be revealed later on, but it's not. I also wanted to know more about Prunella's grandmother, her cousins and her great-grandmother Esmeralda. Where were all the men (not that they are needed, but I was curious if Prunella even missed her father or if she didn't think about him at all). Maybe this will be a series (or at least have a sequel) and then my curiosity will be satisfied. The other thing that slightly bothered me was that the story seemed rather predictable. BUT then I remembered it is geared for younger readers and perhaps the twists will throw them off. The book isn't entirely predictable, but I had the real villain already picked out rather quickly along with Barnaby's true story. I'm going to give my middle school aged sister this book and see if she thinks it's predictable. Other than those two things, The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle was an absolute delight to read.
Prunella is such a spunky character. It was a lot of fun to watch her bemoan her kind thoughts towards other people and she's always got her guard up to avoid non-witchy behavior. "He'd called me a bog witch. He knew what I was! In that moment, I didn't care that he was glaring at me. If it weren't an entirely unwitchly thing to do, I would have flung my arms around his neck and danced with him under the moonlight. " (pg. 7) Something funny about bog witches is that they carry everything in their hair. Prunella receives many strange looks from the non magical folk because she has feathers, grass, a chicken foot and other seemingly random things in her hair. It's an interesting take on witches. She's brave, but she can act really tough in an effort to scare people which only drives away anyone from being her friend. Also, she's terrible at reading people and their intentions so she's constantly dealing with misunderstandings. Prunella's age is never discussed and that didn't bother me so much, she was young, definitely around 12-14 years old. She is a heroine anyone can relate to, we all want to be accepted by family and friends and that's the only thing Prunella cares about at first, but later on she begins struggling with moral issues. What if doing the right thing results in you losing your family and friends, the people you love most? This book explores the themes of following your conscience and making your family proud. I think this is particularly crucial for young readers and teenagers, many of us face all these expectations from our parents and we fear that we won't live up to them. Our parents may want us to have one career, when our heart tells us that we really want to do something else. Barnaby also struggles with this issue of conscience versus family expectations and he's a pleasing character. He doesn't understand why Prunella would want to commit evil acts and he doesn't completely trust her. His past is shrouded in mystery and much of what he does seems to have ulterior motives. Deva Fagan has created a charming world of the magical Bottomlands and the dismal world of the unmagical Uplands. Both worlds are creative and full of odd creatures or people. It's a mix of the real and unreal, there is Prunella grandmother's pet alligator (Yeg) and then there are pondswaggles, jacks and other creepy creatures. The story never becomes tedious because Barnaby and Prunella are either in the midst of a grand misadventure or they are arguing (which is amusing to read).
The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle is an enchanting read that connects a fantasy world of magic to a the modern day world. There are lessons to be learned, but they are layered so far down that the reader will not realize the bigger picture until later. It is first and foremost, a story to entertain and it does just that. Deva Fagan has put her own twist on witches and it's quite imaginative and enjoyable. The plot twists and thickens and the ending is not entirely foreseeable. An alluring group of main and supporting characters along with fantasy elements and lots of fun adventures keep this book moving. I highly recommend it.
Disclosure: Received from publisher/author. May I just say that I really like the little cards that come with Henry Holt books? Fancy swirly script that says "With the Compliments of The Author". I love it.
PS I also adore this cover. Not only does it have a brown-skinned witch on it, but I love the alligator that looks ready to pounce on Prunella and Barnaby. I also love the ominous woods in the background. Great cover!