By Myiesha Speight,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Tweens band together in mysterious, magical fantasy.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
While this is a fantasy meant to entertain, readers will encounter magic words in Spanish that describe the action: "viento" for wind, "esconder" for hiding something, etc.
Give your friends a chance to be there for you and help you. Stick with them and you can accomplish any task. Many times, people are afraid you because they know you're powerful. Lean into your power.
Positive Role Models
Each witchling has an area of expertise and their skills complement each other. Once they get past an initial rockiness, they become an impressive team. They stick up for each other when someone is being mean to one of them. Seven is willing to sacrifice herself to keep the other two safe. When they find out one of the parents is abusive, they don't keep it quiet and tell an adult. Thorn's and Seven's parents are supportive and protective when the witchlings meet opposition.
There are many Latino characters, including main character Seven Salazar, and fantastical creatures like cucos. There's also a character with nonbinary gender identity and characters in a same-sex relationship.
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Violence & Scariness
The Nightbeast took, and many believe killed, a character's brother. Valley's dad is abusive, starved her for two days because of a bad grade, and handled her roughly. The witchlings witness a Spare's employer abusing them and dragging them around with magic. The same employer is mean to the witchlings. There's fantasy violence and magical attacks. The characters kill and injure the cucos, making them bleed.
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Character use insults like "butt-toad" and "nerd." There are backhanded compliments and sarcastic comments. Swearing is only "darn" and "heck." A Spare's mean employer calls one of the witchlings a "dirty little rat witch" and accuses her of killing her brother. The employer also verbally abuses the Spare.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Witchlings, by Claribel A. Ortega, is about 12-year-old Seven Salazar, who wants to join the most powerful coven, but is sorted as a Spare Witch instead. It's not until Seven becomes a Spare that she notices how terribly Spares are treated. They're looked down on in the town of Ravenskill and are less powerful. The Spares' employers mistreat them, verbally and physically abuse them, force them to wear thin, raggedy clothes regardless of the season, and drag them around. Characters use insults like "butt-toad" and "nerd." The witchlings find out that Valley's father is abusive; on one occasion, he starved Valley for two days because of a bad grade and on another, he handled her roughly. The extent of the abuse is not spelled out. Seven tells her parents about it and they then tell Valley's mom. The mom kicks the dad out and Valley and her mom eventually move to a new place, but it's unclear whether the father got punished.
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What's the Story?
In WITCHLINGS, 12-year-old Seven Salazar excitedly awaits the Black Moon ceremony where she and her best friend Poppy hope to be placed in the powerful coven, House Hyacinth. Sadly, only Poppy joins House Hyacinth and in a nightmare come true: Seven finds out that she's a Spare. In the magical town of Ravenskill, Spares are looked down on and are less powerful. To make matters worse, the witchlings in Seven's Spare coven are Seven, a girl named Thorn, and, Valley Pepperhorn, who bullies Seven. When the three are unable to seal their coven, Seven invokes the impossible task, which, if completed successfully, would seal their coven and give them their full power as witches. If unsuccessful, they'll be turned into toads forever. Their impossible task to fell the Nightbeast is difficult enough, but they also have to contend with their constant bickering and the community's unfavorable view of Spares. There's also a mystery surrounding the last witchlings to invoke the task, who were turned into toads, and it all is somehow connected to the Nightbeast. Will Seven and her coven accomplish their tasks or be turned into toads forever?
Is It Any Good?
This magical novel about trusting your friends and believing in your power has serious moments and a surprising mystery. The writing style in Witchlings is simple and easy to understand, so readers won't be confused by the magic system or when there are more serious situations. Readers familiar with Spanish may recognize the magic words used to cast spells: "viento" for wind, "esconder" for hiding something, and so on. The magical sorting system has a unique spin to it with the presence and treatment of the Spares. While the witchlings embark on their impossible task, they also witness the mistreatment of a Spare and how society views Spares. Much of what they witness sparks a timely conversation on the treatment and lack of protection for marginalized communities.
The witchlings find out that Valley's father is abusive and starved her for two days because of a bad grade. Mentions of abuse may be distressing to some readers. Readers will have fun trying to guess the mystery surrounding the Nightbeast, and their jaws will drop when the truth is finally revealed. The passage of time is at some points hard to follow. There are some time skips where a week or a couple of days has passed, and it's sometimes easy to miss. But this doesn't negatively affect overall enjoyable reading experience.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about marginalized communities in Witchlings. Spares are treated terribly, looked down on, and are less powerful. In many ways, they are treated similarly to how marginalized communities are treated in our world. How did reading about their treatment make you feel? What are some ways to help communities in need?
When Seven finds out that Valley's dad is abusive, she struggles with what to do. She ultimately decided to tell her mom. What do you think about her decision to do so? Why do you think it was hard for her to come to that decision?
Seven has a hard time leaning on her coven and often wants to do things herself or go with her own ideas. Why do you think that is? If you had group work with someone like that, how would you approach the situation? What would you say to help convince her to ask for help?
- Author: Claribel A. Ortega
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Communication, Compassion, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: April 5, 2022
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 13, 2022
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.
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