Once a Witch



Mildly bewitching with strong female characters.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

Families stick together; girls are smart and strong; it's OK to be different even if you're a witch.

Positive role models

Tamsin pretends to be her older sister but gets into trouble doing it. She lies by omission and breaks some family rules while she is trying to save her family from rival witches who are evil. Her grandmother is the head of the family; all the females seem to have more powers and more intelligence.


Some danger, implied violence. Fireballs burn a character's hands, a witch under a spell is compelled to cut herself and fill a cup with blood.


Some kissing; mild flirtation


Mild usage of the words "hell" and "s--t."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Tamsin smokes cigarettes; her roommate drinks alcohol heavily.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this book is a fairly conventional portrayal of witches -- they fled Europe because of persecution, they observe Samhain and practice ancient rituals under the moon. The teen smoking and drinking is gratuitous, and the romance is gentle. This is a slight fantasy with strong female characters.

What's the story?

Tamsin is a 17-year-old witch who has grown up in the shadow of her talented older sister. She believes she has no magical talents at all until a handsome young professor convinces her to try harder to develop her powers. But her attempts put her and her family in danger. With the help of time travel Tamsin's family works together to rescue each other and Tamsin discovers just how powerful a witch she really is.

Is it any good?


Despite gratuitous drinking and smoking, this is an amusing coming-of-age story with some traditional witchcraft thrown in. Stock characters are made more agreeable by the humorous banter between Tamsin and her childhood friend and love interest Gabriel. Tamsin's self-doubts will ring true with teens, especially those with older siblings.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about  whether witches exist (ed) and why they were persecuted? 

  • Should Tamsin's family have hidden the truth from Tamsin?

  • Why did Tamsin pretend to be her older sister?

Book details

Author:Carolyn MacCullough
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Clarion Books
Publication date:September 14, 2009
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Read aloud:12
Read alone:14

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 14 year old Written bywitchluvr October 7, 2009

Perfect Book!

Love this so much. Really shows that portraying somebody else when it is not appropriate is not ok. It is really enjoyable read!
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old March 25, 2011

12+ if mature. great read for fun

awsome book it gets a little iffy between tamsin and gabriel. i read it before my mom and she just finished it but we both think it is a great read. to much drugs and alchohol
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written bySeniorKnockout(: December 12, 2011

Once a Witch! (:

I have almost finished...but so far it is GREAT!
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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