A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
One of the characters is French, and her speech includes simple French words and phrases. Several characters are fond of opera, especially Carmen, and readers will pick up a bit of detail on the subject. Kids who like baking will enjoy trying the "spells" in the back of the book -- actually recipes for delicious beverages and baked goods.
The core message is of courage, determination, and persistence in pursuing your dreams -- and not letting fear or opposition stop you. But there's also a strong message of kindness, paying attention to the needs of others, a love of family, and respect for one another's differences, as well as the need to make things right when you cause harm.
Positive Role Models
Cat sometimes wreaks havoc in her determination to learn witchcraft, but she also has a lot of empathy with her family and friends -- which turns out to be an essential quality. Her BFF Peter is patient, ingenious, and loyal. Her explorer father, absent for much of the story, is a strong influence with his adventurous spirit and desire to improve the world. Mom Poppy opposes Cat's dearest wishes, but she has good reasons from her own experience.
Violence & Scariness
Some characters transform others into strange creatures, and everyone hears about how in the past someone turned her parents and others to stone. Fearsome witch Madeline Reynolds is famous for having destroyed half of Italy in a fit of rage, and everyone expects even worse from her now that she's escaped from prison. There's little long-term harm to the victims of misdirected magic, and it's often Mom to the rescue.
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Products & Purchases
Events in Lowe's previous book, The Power of Poppy Pendle, play a big role in Cat Campbell's story, but that book isn't explicitly promoted.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.