Effie is dropped on her aunt's doorstep in the middle of the night after her mother passes away, and at first, the two can't stand each other. Selimene believes there has to be some sort of mistake, that an old lady like her can't possibly look after a young child. Selimene's housemate, Carlota, warms to Effie instantly, and tries to make her comfortable. Effie starts school and makes some new friends, and eventually she and Selimene begin to get along. There is something strange about Selimene and Carlota, who claim to be herbalists and acupuncturists. Effie finally gets the full picture about her aunt's strange life when her magical powers begin to awaken, and Selimene and Carlota reveal they are witches! The three must cure a mysterious curse that is affecting one of Effie's idols, singer Tily Shoo, who is nothing like Effie imagined!
This is a really cute story about becoming a family, and magic is sprinkled in on top. The main part of the first half is the development of the relationship between Selimene and Effie, and their growth is really fun to watch. The title sort of gives it away that Selimene and Carlota are witches, so it's no surprise when Effie shows she has powers, but the extra layer of Selimene and Carlota welcoming Effie into their family is heartwarming. The magic is mostly confined to the basement, where there is a workbench, library, and a walking, talking suit of armor named Francis who is the librarian and guards the place. Francis talks in all caps, which I imagine is because he's rigid like a set of armor would be, but his dialogue is hysterical. Francis lives to make jokes and make people laugh (in addition to giving everyone grief about not putting books back). There is plenty in this first book that will have readers longing for the next two in this planned trilogy.
Escabasse's illustrations play up a cartoony effect, and are brightly colored. Selimene's character design (and demeanor) reminds me a lot of Maxine, the comic strip. I appreciated the blueprint of each floor of the house, and thought the attention to detail in its illustration was lovely.
Hand this middle grade urban fantasy to fans of Shannon Hale and Noelle Stevenson.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 4-8
This review was made possible with a digital reader copy from the publisher through Net Galley.
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Elementary School, Suitability: Middle School, Graphic Literature, Fantasy, Magical Girl, Family, CSLA 2021
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