The Little Grey Girl, by Celine Kiernan

The Little Grey Girl, by Celine Kiernan (Candlewick, Sept 3 2019), is the sequel to Begone the Raggedy Witches, which if you enjoy middle grade fantasy and haven't read yet, I strongly recommend you do!  Preferably before you read The Little Grey Girl, which picks up right after Raggedy Witches.

Mup's mother defeated her own mother, leader of the Raggedy Witches who exercised brutal dominion over a magical land.  Now Mup's family is moving to that land.  Her mother doesn't want to pick up where the old queen left off, though her magical power is just as great.  She'd much prefer to be part of a consensus building sort of leadership.  But there are those who feel strong authority is the only way to guard against the return of the old queen and the power of the Ragged Witches who are still around...

The castle that is now Mup's home is rather cold and dreary, and sits atop the dungeons where the old queen had tortured many prisoners, including Mup's father.  Though Mup's best friend, a shapeshifting boy named Crow, is there to keep her company, their friendship is strained by Mup's own magic, which is that of a Raggedy Witch, and by his torn feelings between wanting to stay and be settled and move past the grief of his own great losses (which Mup is encouraging) and being free and wild.  And then the snow begins to fall (is it a curse sent by the old queen?) and Mup sees a little grey girl, a ghost child, whose darkly magical drawings begin to fill the castle with overwhelming grief.

The ghost child seems to hate Mup, but Mup and Crow persist in trying to understand what she wants, and how to stop her drawings from trapping them all in despair.  Once they realize what she is doing, Mup knows how to help, without inflicting more violence on anyone.

Begone the Raggedy Witches was an exciting adventure fantasy in which wickedness I conquered.  This sequel is about the huge grief and anger that stays after the wickedness has been driven away, and how the act of remembering can't make things all better, but can be a way forward.  It's a moving and thought provoking story, and there's enough fantasy flavor to it all, with ghosts and magic and shapeshifting, to keep it from being all grim.  A great one for thoughtful young readers, and sadly all too relevant.

The Little Grey Girl is eligible for the Cybils Awards this year in Middle Grade Speculative Fiction; if you love reading this sub-genre, and want to spend a few months immersed in reading and talking about it, apply to be a Cybils judge today!  I'm the chair of that category, and I'd really love to have a few new folks!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


  1. My library has Begone the Raggedy Witches now; thanks for the reminder that I should read that one!


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