A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Courage of Cat Campbell is an appealing tale of a late-blooming 11-year-old witch. Sensitive kids may be alarmed by some of the magic gone awry, especially when people are turned to stone, or maybe guinea pigs, but there's no real harm done, and it's often Mom (featured as a child in 2012's The Power of Poppy Pendle) who comes to the rescue. Author Natasha Lowe stresses the importance of following your destiny/bliss but also the need for balancing your passion with skill, discipline, empathy, and kindness. Many kids will relate to Cat's frustration when adults and circumstances keep her from her goals; they'll also relate to some of the problems that result.
What's the story?
Ever since she was a baby, Cat Campbell desperately hoped she'd inherit her mother's magic gene. Her mother, Poppy, desperately hopes she didn't; Poppy hated magic, doesn't want it in her life, and hopes Cat will follow her path in the family bakery. By the time Cat turns 11, she hasn't shown a bit of magical talent, so she's all but lost hope of joining the glamorous, broomstick-riding young witches-in-training at Ruthersfield Academy. After some surprising events reveal that she does in fact have magical powers, she has a new sense of destiny. Unfortunately, Poppy is set against Cat's planned career -- and it's true that Cat's spells have a way of causing trouble. Which the town doesn't really need at the moment, as a long-imprisoned witch who once destroyed half of Italy is on the loose and bent on revenge.
Is it any good?
Kids determined to pursue a dream and getting a lot of discouragement will relate to Cat's plight as she faces one obstacle after another in her quest for a career in magic. Along the way, there are plenty of "be careful what you wish for" moments, as well-meant attempts at witchcraft cause scenes straight out of The Sorcerer's Apprentice -- which will be hysterically funny to some readers and a bit scary to others. There's a strong message, reinforced in various subplots, about why it's important to pursue your dreams and how nothing but harm will come of giving it up. (Young bakers also will love the recipes at the back of the book, which conveniently include substitutes for magic ingredients.)
As the central characters, Cat and her mom, Poppy (the subject of author Lowe's first book, The Power of Poppy Pendle), are appealing and complex enough to be interesting -- especially as one revelation follows another. Some of the supporting cast are a bit more cartoonish, often serving to advance the plot or add atmosphere. The story offers some interesting discussion points -- not only about pursuing your dreams but about how to handle it when things don't go your way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why stories about kids with magical powers are so popular. What's the appeal? What are some of your favorites?
Do you think you'd like to have magical powers? How would you feel if your spells, like Cat's, didn't turn out the way you planned and it was your friends who suffered?
Have you ever been in a position like Cat's, where you really, really want something, but things aren't going your way at all? What happened? How did you deal with it?
- Author: Natasha Lowe
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: January 6, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.