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[( Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage )] [by: Kaye Umansky] [Aug-2009] (Anglais) Relié – 18 août 2009
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
What tale would be complete without a sidekick or two for our heroine? Clover is joined in her adventures by the clumsy neighbor boy, Wilfred, and Demelza's cat, Neville.
This book is fun and considerably lighter in tone than most of the other magic books on the market. Kids who read well at about the 4th grade level should enjoy it, regardless of age. Mesmeranza locks the children in a dungeon and feeds them bread and water, but there's never any hint of truly foul deeds.
Clover is a sensible girl, in a quite extraordinary situation, yet she always manages to keep her composure and her sensible nature to cope with the chaos around her. I enjoyed Clover, but I admit that what won me over were the wonderful scenes with the evil witch Mesmeranza.
Mesmeranza is vain and vengeful, but perhaps not the most effective Evil Witch, as she relies on her mousy secretary Miss Fly and her assorted other servants to carry out the various Plans she thinks up. Here, she dictates to Miss Fly her To Do list for The Plan:
"Put the shoes first."
"The shoes go first. Before anything else, I need the right shoes. These red ones."
Mesmeranza stabbed at a page in the catalog with a crimson talon. The shoes she was pointing at were bright red and strappy, with perilously high heels.
"Haven't you got enough shoes?" ventured Miss Fly, who went for more sensible brown wide-fitting flats.
"No," said Mesmeranza, firmly. "Shoes are vitally important. What have I always said, Fly? Get the shoes right, and everything else follows smoothly. We don't all have to go around with Yeti feet like you. So the list now reads, Shoes, Cake, Disguise, Boy."
The book is a breezy and funny light read, but the language is beautiful and the vocabulary rich. There's nothing too scary, but it's quite funny, particularly the contrast between the way Mesmeranza perceives her wicked and brilliant schemes and the way everyone else sees them.
Cats play an important role, as do cakes, and an invisible horse. They are all well drawn, with a level of cheerful realism, even the ones that are magical and thus shouldn't necessarily be realistic at all.
On the cats:
Here we are again, back in Castle Coldiron. The weather has not improved. Storms are blowing in from the north. Miss Fly's cats are restless. They just slump around shedding hair, watching the clouds gather, and demanding more fish heads. Miss Fly is beside herself. Not only is her room full of chunks of fallen ceiling plaster, frankly, it's getting rather stinky.
The suggested age range of 9+ is about right for most kids in terms of the difficulty, but this is a novel that would be a good choice for a precocious younger reader as well - there's nothing too scary or too grown up here. It is also a perfectly wonderful read for an adult of any age, with or without the excuse of a child to read it to.
I loved this book, and I look forward to seeking out other titles by Ms. Umansky.
First, there's Clover Twig, who is practical, tidy, and very adult at only 10 years of age. Clover goes to work for a witch by the name of Demelza Eckles. Mrs. Eckles is a good and kind witch, but messy and desperately in need of a reliable live-in housekeeper like Clover. Sometimes she also has errands done for her by Wilf, an accident-prone but well-meaning boy. He, in addition to Clover, becomes one of the two main characters.
Then there's Demelza Eckles' sister, vain Mesmeranza. Demelza has something Mesmeranza wants desperately and will do anything to get. You see, Mesmeranza is NOT a good witch. She's plotting and planning something sneaky, and aims to trick the children into helping her with her plan.
Author Kaye Umansky seems to have a love of language, giving her characters funny names that fit their personalities. She also employs alliteration and other language gags--such as with Mesmeranza's personal secretary, who can't pronounce more and more letters as she gets sicker and her congestion thicker. Some of the language play is reminiscent of Roald Dahl.
All of the other characters have their flaws and idiosyncrasies (including the cat and the flying horse), all, that is, except for main character Clover. The witches really aren't all that scary, even the bad witch Mesmeranza. After all, it's difficult to be scary if you're a vain witch who insists upon wearing high heels.
Mrs. Eckles has an evil sister, who covets Mrs. Eckles' ramshackle old cottage, simply because it is not her own, and has been trying for years to steal it. Clover, the cat Neville, and the extremely clumsy delivery boy Wilf find themselves in a battle to keep the cottage for Mrs. Eckles, while she is away at a Fair.
When spelled out like that, the plot doesn't sound like much, and some of it is fairly standard children's fantasy--as well as bearing a likeness in some parts to at least one of my favorite authors. On the other hand, there are some good laugh-out-loud bits, the children are likable and when Ms. Umanksy writes about cats, well, it is obvious she knows cats! Also, just when I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, I received a plot surprise here and there which rounded out to a pleasant story, with an amusing and gratifying ending.
On the whole, as an adult who sates herself in fantasy as often as possible, this wasn't an exceptional book. However, I would think that a child, still fresh to the genre, would be enchanted and thoroughly amused. I would certainly recommend it to the young pre-teen, especially female, reader.