Title: Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage
Author: Kaye Umansky
Illustrator: Johanna Wright
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Concepts: jobs, scarcity, services, compensating wages
Review: At six pence per week, the cleaning job that Mrs. Eckles had advertised on the village notice board paid at least two pence more than most other cleaning jobs, so it certainly caught Clover Twig’s eye. Clover desperately wanted to earn some money and help her family: she shared a bed with three younger sisters who were constantly hungry and regularly dressed in rags. Even better, the cleaning job included room and board, which meant that Ma would have one less mouth to feed.
The catch, of course, was Mrs. Eckles’ reputation as the village witch. Clover suspected that the extra wages must compensate for the oddities of keeping house for a witch. Little did she realize that her new position would involve a spine-tingling adventure with a magical cottage and an array of interesting characters, including an incredibly clumsy village boy named Wilf and Mrs. Eckles’ evil sister Mesmeranza.
With its clever story-telling and blend of serious and silly characters, this novel will delight readers of all ages. Mesmeranza’s shoe fetish and her intense desire to “retain some semblance of glamour” generate some wonderful lines, as do the antics of a revengeful cat whose brain suddenly goes into overdrive after licking up a magic “Changeme” serum. The addition of an economics theme to motivate the story is icing on the cake, a cliché that is entirely appropriate given the importance of cakes in Mesmeranza’s nasty plan.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children