Don't let the title of this post fool you. There aren't any witches in this book, much to my youngest daughter's delight (I keep getting the question, "Mummy, witches aren't real, right?"). Nevertheless, I thought Spells (Macmillan Children's Books 2009) by Emily Gravett might be appropriate for this time of the year. It isn't a frightening book, by any means. It's the story of Frog. After escaping a jar (he was intended for a witch's cauldron) he finds a book of spells. He tears it apart, creating a pirate's ship (wishing he was a pirate) and then a castle and some paper princesses (wishing he was a prince). In amongst the torn up spells, Frog finds part of a spell to turn himself into a prince but the rest of the page is missing! So he combines the torn spell pages in attempt to create the correct one. This is where the book becomes really exciting. Gravett has made every other page a spell page, rhyming verse and all, and every page in between is an illustration of what that spell creates. Have I confused you, yet? Well there's more. Then she has cut each spell and creation page in half so the reader can combine any half of a spell with another to create different combinations of creations. So, for example, the spell words "Bim Bam, Barebum" together with "Slither kazake" work together to form a picture of a "Prake" (half prince and half snake). Although I have to admit the real draw for my girls in this spell was the word "Barebum". Ah, yes. The sillies arrived in full force. Eventually Frog becomes the prince he always dreamt he would be but, unfortunately, he misses some of the spell's small print!
Gravett is known for using interesting elements of collage (such as postcards and maps) in her books and this one does not disappoint. She's used her imagination to make this a fun book for a variety of ages. Look out for Gravett's many other books as well. Besides Spells we also own her board book, Orange Pear Apple Bear (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2007). My youngest daughter particularly liked its simple rhymes when she was a baby. Another of Gravett's books, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2008), won the Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration in children's literature.