Backyard Witch: Sadie's Story

If you discovered a witch living in your playhouse, you might expect her to do more magic, and less-bird-watching, than she does in Backyard Witch: Sadie's Story, the first book in a series about three nine-year-old friends (and the witch in Sadie's playhouse) by Christine Heppermann and Ron Koertge (illustrated by Deborah Marcero; (Greenwillow, 2015). As it happens, I like birdwatching, so this didn't bother me at all--it was a bonus! But if you're here for the magic, it's strictly minor hexes--just enough to help Sadie cope when her two best friends, Maya and Jess, go on vacation together, leaving Sadie behind. The witch's friends are missing, too--Ethel turned into a bird and flew away; Onyx (the cat) chased after. Sadie helps Ms. M look for them, and together--by means more or less magical--they save the playhouse from being sold at a yard sale.

Back to the birds. The real magic, Sadie's Story suggests, is in the natural world, or rather in really noticing it for the first time: "At that moment, Sadie did have a magical power, though she didn't know what to call it. All she knew was that the park had transformed. Or she had" (55). Being alone can do that to a person, even if you don't happen to have a witch in your playhouse.

Back matter includes Ms. M's birding tips and a bibliography of bird books that lists two of my favorites: Annette LeBlanc Cate's Look Up! Birdwatching in Your Own Backyard (Candlewick, 2013) and Stokes Beginner's Guide to Birds: Eastern (or Western) Region, which is the one we used when we were first getting started. Recommended for younger middle grade readers, 7-10 years old.