Posted by kirstyes
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the new Middle Grade series Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler. When Faye asked if I was interested I thought back to reading The Worst Witch when I was younger and said yes.
Bella Broomstick is a hopeless witch. So hopeless that nasty Aunt Hemlock is sending her to live in Person World – with the warning that she must never do magic again! But when Bella finds a kitten in trouble, a spell is the only way to rescue it. What is Bella to do? For where there is magic, trouble is never far away!
What I thought
Oddly enough I’d listened to The Worst Witch stories earlier in the year and it’s interesting re-reading stories you loved as a child when you are older. Reading Bella Broomstick as an adult matched up to my re-read so I’m pretty sure the younger me would have loved Bella and Rascal as much as she loved Mildred and Tabby.
In Bella Broomstick I really enjoyed the fact that the setting was the ‘Person World’ and I adored the theme of finding your place and finding your self confidence in your uniqueness. The younger me definitely needed that sort of message (and older me needs reminding every now and then). The illustrations in the book really contribute to the story, especially as they are “drawn by Bella herself.”
I have to admit though that I did want a little more of Wane the chameleon – he’s the evil version of Pascal from Tangled and would have been a fun foil for Rascal. Maybe next time ;o)
Interview with the delightful author
- In a lot of books we see the human person heading to the magic world, what made you decide to switch things round?
I think it was exactly that – I love the Harry Potter stories, of course. That got me thinking, what if somebody from the Magic Realm came to our world. Perhaps they’d find it strange and “magical” too.
- What magical stories did you enjoy reading as a child?
For pure bonkers magic, I loved Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series – the idea that with just one wish you could leap into a new land. Genius. But there was also a book called Silver Snaffles by Primrose Cummings in which a little girl enters a magic world where horses can speak. I grew up on a farm and was lucky enough to have a pony of my own … The hours I spent sitting in her stable hoping the hayrack would open up and I too would find the secret world! Perhaps that’s why Bella Broomstick can talk to animals – a little bit of wish fulfilment on my part.
- There are a number of animals in the book, which was your favourite to write about and why?
I really enjoyed writing Rascal the kitten because, as his name suggests, he is very mischievous which kept me on my toes. He’s quite big headed too. But, most of all, I enjoyed writing Wane the mean, shape-shifting chameleon. Creating baddies is always the best fun.
- What would you hope children that might get called hopeless in real life take away from this book?
I hope they will come to realise that sometimes the things we (and other people – including grown-ups) think are important at certain stages of our lives are not necessarily the most enduring things. Celebrate what you are good at – Bella worries about finding magic tricky when perhaps, instead, she should celebrate the fact that she can speak fluent animal languages. I am dyslexic and found school really hard. One way or another, I often ended up feeling a bit hopeless … the only thing I was any good at was making up stories (even though I found it really difficult to get them down on paper). All these years later, it turns out that having a pretty wobbly grasp of my times tables isn’t the end of the world. But, as a children’s writer – with the help of a great spell checker on the computer and very patient editors – having a lively imagination hardwired to childhood has finally paid off!
- How important do you think the illustrations are in this book? (I really enjoyed them).
Aren’t they fantastic. We really wanted it to look as if Bella had drawn them herself. Kyan Cheng has created a really wonderful doodle style and I think the pictures add lots of humour to the stories. It is always great for newly-fluent readers to have pictures along the way. I particularly love the illustrations of the long lists Bella writes (such as Worst Spells Ever). And Chang’s superb, shadowy image of Wane the chameleon sends shivers down my spine.
- Can you name some other animal languages – we’ve got cat chat, what about elephants, dogs, etc.
Ah … there’s Toad Talk, of course. Hornet Hum. Grasshopper Gulp. Dog Dialogue – I don’t know if Bella has ever chatted to an elephant but she could try Trunk Talking, I suppose! She does love Cat Chat best of all though … and is promising to learn Flamingo (one of the trickiest types of Beak Speak) very soon.
Thanks so much for these fabulous questions. I had a lot of fun – and a bit of head scratching – coming up with the answers.
Do check out the earlier posts on the tour, and if you’ve got children who like fantasy please introduce them to Bella (especially if they are having a bit of a hard time at school).