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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble (The Misadventures of Salem Hyde #1) by Frank Cammuso

I was at the ALA conference and saw book two of "The Misadventures of Salem Hyde," and bought it without hesitation. Book one's clever play on words and subtle message made me want to see what the author did in a sequel. Salem Hyde is a witch that is supposed to hide her powers from ordinary people. When Shelly brags about being a good speller, Salem decides to convince her that she's a good speller too, except she is thinking of witch spells not spelling words. When she turns the old patrol woman, Mrs. Fossil, into a dinosaur, the assistant principal Mr. Fink is determined to get her kicked out of school. Her parents decide that she needs an animal companion to guide her with when to use and not use her magic.

Salem insists on a unicorn. Yep, a unicorn. Those adults out there with girls will snort-laugh at that one. My unicorn crazed daughter would have said that as well. Or Rainbow Pony. Ah well. Understandably, Salem is quite disappointed with her parents choice of a cat, "A witch and a cat? That's so unoriginal."  When her mom explains that the cat, Whammy, is there to help her she has a temper tantrum exclaiming she is independent and doesn't need someone else to boss her. Salem's tiger claws are out and she is determined to not be friends with Whammy. He in turn is not too thrilled with being her mate.

Whammy mentors Salem by giving her a series of tests. The first test is called, "Witch Test," so that whenever Salem asks what kind of test she's taking Whammy says, "Witch Test." She thinks he's asking "which test?" and the ensuing dialogue is hysterical with miscommunication and word play. When her second test is flying, the spit fire Salem shoots into the sky on a vacuum cleaner like a superhero. Whammy is afraid of flying and when the extension cord runs out they crash land as she yells at him, "Quit screaming scaredy-cat!" As they are hanging upside down from a tree Salem asks if she got an A plus. Yup, education and grades... be nice to get rid of 'em, wouldn't it? The assistant principal continues to try and get her kicked out of school only to be foiled every time he thinks he has proof.  

Salem is in school and is daydreaming when she accidentally enters the spelling bee. When the obnoxious Shelly tells her that there is no way Salem can win, Whammy interferes and begins to really mentor Salem as she make all sorts of funny mistakes. There is some adult humor that had me snorting. Soon it becomes apparent that Salem's spells are unpredictable and funny. She turns a rock into a butterfly and gets them into scrapes. While stuck in a tree, Whammy liken's Fergus, the toddler, to Moby Dick. Whammy changes the tale to soften its harsh edges for Salem and makes it a story of friendship versus revenge. In a nice climax Whammy, through the Moby Dick story reveals that friendship and spell casting requires patience and perseverance to learn. After the pep talk Salem is reading for the spelling bee. In the meantime Whammy has had a change of heart regarding Salem and working with her. In a funny climax they resolve their differences and learn to be friends. The drawings remind me of the comic strips I read in the newspaper growing up. I can't wait to read this out loud to 3rd graders.

4 Smileys

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