Goodreads: A Witch’s Kitchen
Publication Date: September 25, 2016
Millie’s a witch, so why can’t she do magic?
Despite her mother’s best efforts to teach her, every spell Millie tries goes horribly wrong, but she’s a fabulous cook. When Millie conjures chocolate sauce instead of a transformation potion, her mother gives up and sends her to the Enchanted Forest School, where she’s bullied by goblins, snubbed by an elf, and has her hat stolen. Even as Millie’s magical talent begins to develop, turning her house ghost into a frog and accidentally charming her entire class, Millie starts to wonder: what if she’s not a witch at all? To find out, she and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to find Millie’s father in the Logical Realm, in contemporary Salem, MA.
Deep in a fantasy realm adjacent to our own, the Enchanted Forest School is located in the branches of an enormous oak tree and has a dragon for a headmistress. Millie’s initial delight in attending school rapidly fades as she struggles in the unfamiliar social environment, encountering fellow students of magical races, making new friends, and discovering that her mother’s style of magic isn’t the only one available.
A Witch’s Kitchen introduces readers to a spunky protagonist who simply wants to get things right, whether that’s in the kitchen making delightful recipes or growing up to be a properly talented witch, as her mother expects. Millie has a lot of heart and a lot of gumption, and readers will be clamoring to make her their new literary best friend. Add a dash of magic, a pinch of trouble, and a seasoning of adventure, and you have one delightfully charming middle grade novel.
The prose of the novel does read young, so readers used to middle grade for a little older audience may have to take a moment to settle in and get accustomed to it. However, the story eventually overtakes the writing, and readers will be drawn into a world where elves, pixies, goblins, gnomes, witches, and more share an Enchanted Forest–and have to deal with each other at school. Hi-jinks naturally ensue as the young characters practice their magic.
The, perhaps inevitable, result of all these different magical races in one place is a lot of info-dumps. Sanchez has to share with her readers the history of the fantasy world. as well as some of the culture of each species. I liked when Millie, as the new student, had to share some of witch culture with her class. However, I think some of the other information could have been integrated a little more gracefully. I also wanted to hear more about the segregation in the forest, as Sanchez introduces this idea but doesn’t fully explore it.
However, beyond the simple (yet, ok, still compelling) story of Millie trying her best to succeed at school as the token witch student, there’s also a bigger story here–involving Mille’s mother, some of the other adults, and a secret portal to the Logical Realm (aka our world). Sanchez packs a lot of excitement into this story, nicely drawing it out in ever-widening circles, as the characters’ actions have impacts on bigger and bigger things in the world.
The Witch’s Kitchen is just a nice addition the middle grade witch books in the world. Charming and occasionally quirky, with a lot to share about important subjects like talent and family and kindness, it’s a great choice for readers of middle grade fantasy.