Catching Up with Clover Twig!
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Lynn: Cindy and have spent our school careers focusing on teen literature but with Bookends we acquired the responsibility of covering books from birth to 18! It has been really fun to delve into the rich world of books for younger readers but every so often I realize just how much catch up I have to do. A few weeks ago the generous folks at Roaring Brook sent me a box with a book that caught my eye…well MANY books that caught my eye actually, but one featuring a character called Clover Twig looked especially appealing. Of course you veterans out there already know this, but there was a PREVIOUS Clover Twig story that I had missed. So – I’ve been happily playing catch up with a character that I immediately adored.
In the first book, Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage (Roaring Brook 2009) a sensible 11-year-old takes a job keeping house for Mrs. Eckles, the local witch. Clover likes nothing better than cleaning and Mrs. Ecles is an expert at providing the mess to be tidied! Besides that she has a room of her own and plenty to eat – something that is quite different from home where she shares everything with three siblings. What Clover doesn’t know is that she hasn’t left sibling rivalry behind after all. Mrs. Eckles and her witchy sister Mesmeranza have their own battle going over the very cottage Clover cleans. Mesmeranza implements a sneaky plan that takes Clover, her accident-prone neighbor Wilf, Neville, Mrs. Eckles’ surprising cat and others to thwart. Pragmatic Clover isn’t fazed by anything the fairy tale world can throw at her including a temperamental gate, Hypnospecs, the Bad Weather Umbrella or Mesmeranza’s extensive collection of shoes. You have to love a witch who has to be perfectly accessorized for the job!
Cindy: Okay – now for the second book in this charming series. Clover Twig and the Perilous Path (Roaring Brook 2012). Lynn offered me the first in the series but I told her to return it to the library, I didn’t have time, I’d just see if book two could stand alone. It does. But by the time I hit page 27 with the recap that includes a footnote to referring the reader to the first book, I knew I would have to hunt it down again. I adore Clover Twig and the feisty Mrs. Eckles. This installment features a search for Clover’s baby brother. Has he merely wandered away or has he been kidnapped by Mesmeranza’s huntsman, Hybrow Hunter–”Hunter because that was the family name, and Hybrow because his mother had hopeful plans for him.” She wants the boy as ransom to get Clover to steal a book of bad spells from Mrs. Eckles. What will she do with that book?
With that book, there’s nothing I can’t do. Make it rain snakes for seven years. Turn the footmen into purple lizards. Cause a plague of giant flying cockroaches. An invasion of hostile hedgehogs. A pimple epidemic. Whatever takes my fancy.
Clover and Wilf end up braving the Perilous Path in search of young Herby and pick up several other new characters along the way. The plot really doesn’t matter, it’s the absurd characters and dialogue the propel the story. There’s Mesmeranza’s secretary for instance. A woman who owns forty plus cats but is allergic to them…or the stupid troll named Barry who asks easy questions for passage across his bridge…or the troublesome new-fangled “Ballmaster Multidimensional Mark Six” crystal ball that will remind many an adult reader of their own technology upgrade issues.
The story’s action does switch between characters and locations, which will give young readers experience with less straight-forward plotting. As Kathleen Isaacs says in her Booklist review of the first book, “this is most suitable for upper elementary school readers who are just about ready for similar fantasies by Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones.”
I really don’t want to tell you any more about this book…the fun is in the reading….or in the reading aloud! Why, oh why, isn’t this series produced on audio???