Warning: Contains material some readers may find offensive.
BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature
A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.
Spotlight On: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde
Publisher: Amulet Books/Abrams
Author/Artist: Frank Cammuso
I first profiled The Misadventures of Salem Hyde in my Literary Discoveries of 2013 column. At the time, only the first volume, Spelling Trouble, had been released. The second volume, Big Birthday Bash, was just released in May 2014. (Cookie Catastrophe will be out in October.)
This is an adorable series, filled with jokes and puns. Salem is an enthusiastic and curious little girl, who loooves to use magic. More often than not, her spells go sideways, but that does not dampen her enthusiasm -- it just offers her (and her young readers) the opportunity to learn an important lesson or two. In Spelling Trouble, for instance, Salem learns about grammar and spelling and saying exactly what you mean; oh, yeah, and not cheating. In Big Birthday Bash, she learns about friendship, not jumping to conclusions, and that everything (especially magic) has a cost.
The supporting characters are just as important and just as interesting. Salem's parents, for instance, do not have a drop of magical talent -- but they love and accept their daughter as she is, and encourage her to learn as much as she can. They even welcome Whammy into their home, the magical animal companion assigned to teach Salem how to use her powers.
The tricolored artwork is unusual and engaging: grey scale and green for the first book, grey scale and pink for the second. Salem's over-the-top facial expressions (huge glasses, wide mouth) perfectly match her gregarious personality. I particularly love the scene in the first volume when her magical animal companion, Whammy, is attempting to teach Salem the basics of spelling; one entire page is nothing but close-up shots of her face as she moves from devious to exasperated to shocked. Or her reaction in the second volume upon discovering that her magical birthday gift to her best friend has gone horribly awry.
The Misadventures of Salem Hyde is a fun, humorous series. It is perfect for little kids who want to read a story about a witch their own age -- and learn a few important life lessons on the side. Heartily recommended to fans of The Last Wild Witch by Starhawk and Lindy Kehoe; Witch Poems by Daisy Wallace and Trina Schart Hyman; and The Woman in the Moon and Other Tales of Forgotten Heroines by James Riordan and Angela Barrett.
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