The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams, by Rhonda Hayter (Dail, 2010, middle grade, 242 pages)
Abbie Adams is going through a rough patch. It's hard being one of a family of witches, trying to pass as normal in elementary school--the temptation to use just a smidge of magic to get out of trouble is great! And it's even harder when your much younger brother has just started at the same school, and you have to worry about his own magic getting away from him...Abbie wishes she could tell her best friend all about her life; it's hard to relax when every time your friend comes over you might have to use a forgetting spell on her...
But Thomas Edison (yes, the Thomas Edison) is having an even harder time. He's been dragged through time as an enchanted black kitten. By chance, Abbie's father found him, and brought him home as a surprise for Abbie. It soon became clear to everyone, though, that this was no normal cat. Although he can't (being a kitten) tell anyone what happened to him, he uses his formidable intelligence to figure out how to use the computer with his little paws...and when his true identity is revealed, it becomes clear that someone wanted young Tom out of the way, to serve his own sinister purposes. Somehow Tom must be returned (preferably in boy form) back to the past, before it changes so much that Tom, and his inventions, are written out of history.
Off the top of my head, I feel that there are a number of books about families of witches living among us. But I think Hayter does a fine job making that aspect of her story fresh and fun. Abbie's problems are vexing enough to cause her real anxiety, while still staying firmly on this side of entertaining. The magic side of things is interesting, although sketched rather than explored and explained in detail.
It is the time-travelling kitten, however, who steals the show. Poking his little nose into every gadget around, Tom marvels at the 21st century. Even though for much of the book he's unable to express his feelings, it's clear that he's utterly fascinated by everything he's learning. And it's great fun to watch his relationship with Abbie unfolding--even though I shrink from Life Lessons in books, it's a pleasure to watch his example of hard work rub on her.
I don't think I've ever read a book in which someone time travels to the future enchanted as an animal. It's a fine premise in its own right, and even more fun that it is someone so very famous. The addition of Thomas Edison to Abbie's witchy world makes what could have been just a light, fun, book into a still light, but very fun indeed, book. And I think Tom, hero to all scientifically minded ten year olds that I know, adds a generous dollop of boy friendliness. I am determined to try it on my ten year old, using Tom as a hook...
(disclaimer: my copy of this book was received through The Picnic Basket, where you can read the thoughts of many others)