The Little Witch's Book of Spells by Ariel Kusby, illustrated by Olga Baumert, 133 pp, RL 4

The Little Witch's Book of Spells
Review Copy from Chronicle Books
This is the book that the ten-year-old me would have cherished and benefitted from. When I was a kid in the 1980s, I desperately wanted to discover something special about myself, like magical powers. Social-emotional learning, emotional intelligence, self-esteem and self-care were still on the horizon for kids and most adults back then. And Wicca wasn't a word I would learn for another decade. In this post-Harry Potter world (and as someone who worked as a children's bookseller during the publication of all seven books) I understand that there are many parent/caregiver/gatekeepers who will freak out just reading the title of Kusby's book, but I hope you will read my review with an open mind. 

In her introduction, Kusby tells readers that it is, "your essential qualities - the elements of who you are - that are magical and can be used in witchcraft if you believe they are powerful," and that, in centuries past, witches have been "those who differed from the norm." From nature worshippers to alchemists, healers, quirky artists, and cat lovers, witches "come from different backgrounds from all over the world," and can be of any gender. For me, The Little Witch's Book of Spells is a work that introduces readers to self-care and the power of positive intentions and positive mindset through creative endeavors. It can also be read as a guide to pagan practices, including how to make your own grimoire.
Kusby divides her book into sections, with spells for Love & Friendship, Success, Protection & Healing, Happiness and Divination. The spell for Love and Kindness (to be "performed with a family member you love. Make sure an adult is present when using the stove.") has readers making two mugs of warm cinnamon and honey milk and saying, as you and your loved one stir your milk, "I love you more than all the __ in the world." The "Love Yourself Rainbow Spell" has readers write seven of their best qualities, things they like about themselves, or "something you want to believe about yourself but feel insecure about" on a sheet of paper over and over, in the colors of the rainbow, folding it and leaving it near a window to "absorb the sun's positivity." There are spells for making a fairy garden and a mermaid bath and a magical fortress. The spell for freezing a bully is one I am tempted to try myself.
And, while much of The Little Witch's Book of Spells is domestically crafty and rooted in nature, there section on divination covers making and using a pendulum, telling fortunes with tea leaves and found feathers and the art of floromancy.  In guiding readers in how to use this book of spells, she assures readers that "spells are not rules, but guidelines," and that every spell in the book is "meant to be adaptable and simple to perform." Whatever comes to mind when you hear the words, "witch," "witchcraft," and "spell," Kusby's book is filled with creative ideas that connect readers with themselves, nature and loved ones. Baumert's illustrations are charming and the design of the book  - from the cover to the endpapers - is enchanting!


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