Book of the Month: October 2018

Maybe because I was born in October, or maybe because I like dressing up, or maybe because I wanted to be a witch when I was a kid, or maybe because I love (black) cats and pumpkins…anyway I love Halloween. So this month’s pick is a picture book from Belgium about a little fairy who wants to be a witch – Witchfairy written by Brigitte Minne and illustrated by Carll Cneut (English edition by Book Island 2017)

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Little Rosemary is a fairy lived with her mum in a castle in the air with golden turrets. Rosemary wants a pair of roller skates and a boat, but her mum says ‘No, no, no.’

“Fairies always had to be sweet. And neat. They ate cake without making crumbs. They drank tea without spilling a drop and they never had spots or specks on their dresses. They told only the sweetest stories with their honeyed voices. And now and they they waved their magic wands around.”

Rosemary thinks fairies are really dull. She’d much rather be a witch!

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After the heated arguments with her mum, Rosemary packs her bags and flies away to the dark witches’ wood. Contrary to her mum’s expectation, Rosemary throughly enjoys the life in the witches’ wood, building a treehouse and a boat, running through the wood on roller skates, and learning how to fly on a broomstick. She even convinces her mum that the being a witch is as good as being a fairy. Rosemary’s mum finally gives in and tells Rosemary that she can be a witch. But the delightful twist of this book is that Rosemary decides to take the best of both worlds and becomes a witchfairy.

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I like this story firstly because not just child character but also adult character learns something. That makes this book for both kids and parents. And secondly, it’s about finding your own unique place in the world. The ending lines goes:

“Rosemary isn’t a real fairy and she’s not a real witch either. She’s witchfairy – and a very happy one!”

This message resonates with me, who was born and bred in Japan but found a second home in UK. The sense of identity is always central to my writing, particularly so in my first picture book, which will be published in 2020.

Belgian illustrator Carll Cneut’s stunning artwork is a perfect partner to the Brigitte Minne’s magical story. His artwork reminded me of Tomonori Taniguchi’s illustrations that are rather dark and rough, but filled with gentle sensitivity. The details, limited colour palette, and balance between light and dark are just stunning. You can watch his interview on this book here.

This is a book full of fairies and witches, but the heart of it is a heartwarming relationship between a mother and daughter.

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