The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
The Okay Witch is a charming coming of age story, but with the unexpected complications of magical abilities.
The art is fresh and colorful and the story is familiar enough to know where it will probably go but unique in the details to keep a young reader interested. This graphic novel, intended for grade school, really hits the mark with adventure and humor. I enjoyed meeting Moth, the heroine of this story. Plus, with 44% speaking female characters, Emma Steinkellner, the author, is better than the average for children’s books.
Moth is a young girl whose best friend is her mother. They own a second-hand shop in a small New England town. Moth recently lost her only other friend, old Mr. Laszlo, who used to own the shop. Moth is an awkward girl who is either ignored or bullied in school. Despite this, she is a generally happy kid.
The Okay Witch opens on Halloween, when Moth dresses as a witch and bumps into a new boy at school. He is as awkward as she is and they bond immediately. It’s an adorable scene where they find they have so much in common as geeks, even comparing allergies. Although Moth is used to being bullied by the other kids, on this day, she successfully defends herself in a very odd way, which freaks her out.
Coming home, she finds a talking cat inhabited by the spirit of her old friend, Mr. Laszlo. All this makes her talk to her mom, who explains it very simply: they are witches, from a long line of witches, so it’s no surprise that Moth can do magic. Moth doesn’t just take this incredible news well, she is ecstatic. She wants to learn everything about magic…and her family. Unfortunately, her mother remains as closed about the family as she always was, and forbids Moth to practice magic again, warning her that it will never come to anything good.
Moth is highly disappointed and, with the encouragement of Mr. Laszlo cat, she steals her mother’s diary and reads about their magical past on her own.
What follows is a new take on the Salem witch trials and the persecution of witches throughout history. Of course, in The Okay Witch, witches are actually practicing magic, but in helpful ways that are sadly mistrusted. Moth’s grandmother is one of the most powerful witches and manages to find a way to escape the persecution and taking other witches with her. Unfortunately, Moth’s mother was a young girl with rebellious tendencies of her own and wanted no part in hiding or escaping.
While Moth’s family history is slowly revealed, she is also secretly practicing magic with varying results, hence the title, The Okay Witch, (or that could refer to the fact that they are not bad witches.)
It’s easier with a friend at school, but there is now a school play- a historical play that tells how the town got rid of evil, nasty witches. How can Moth participate in the play when she knows it’s a lie against her family? Will she ever control her powers without help? Will she continue to keep secrets from her mom and new best friend?
The characters in The Okay Witch are well rounded and even the side characters have distinct personalities. Moth is a sweet heroine and easy to root for. All the women in the book are varied and strong. The ending was neatly done, no cliffhangers, but certainly left the door open for more adventures with The Okay Witch.
Recommended for ages 8-12.
Disclaimer: GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.