Alyssa and the Spell Garden

Alyssa and the Spell Garden

By Author / Illustrator

Alexandra Sheppard, Bex Glendining

Genre

Magical Realism

Age range(s)

9+

Publisher

Faber Children's Books

ISBN

9780571377428

Format

Paperback / softback

Published

04-04-2024

Synopsis

Alyssa must save a magical spell garden with her new unreliable powers....  When 11-year-old Alyssa is forced to spend the summer holiday with her mum's family, who she's never met before, her latent magical powers explode into life. Her great aunt runs a secret school in her spell garden where local kids can hone their power. The garden grows spell ingredients that have protected their family and the wider neighbourhood for decades - ever since they arrived from Jamaica with their mother Effie in the 1960s. But something is going wrong and the magic is running out! Can Alyssa use her new, unpredictable powers to set things right?

A contemporary fantasy set in a small community in North London facing eviction and gentrification with a magical garden at the centre of it. Stunningly illustrated by Bex Glendining.


'Enchanting and heart-lifting.' Sophie Anderson.  'Bursts with glimmering magic.' Jasbinder Bilan.  'A delight . . . funny, heartfelt and packed full of magic.' Abi Elphinstone.  'Magical and empowering.' G M Linton.  'A magical, cosy, spellbinding treat!' Kieran Larwood.  'Utterly charming.' Lizzie Huxley-Jones.  'A heart warming read with a blast of magic!' Janelle McCurdy.


Find out more in this video by Alexandra Sheppard, and read our Q&A with the author 



 

Reviews

Elen

Alyssa and the Spell Garden takes an ordinary part of North London and brings magic into it, by way of a 'spell garden'; a magical place that helps keep the community safe and hidden from the gentrification that has befallen many neighbouring high streets in the city.


Alyssa isn't sure why her mother has separated herself from her family, but she gets the chance to discover her family roots when she is sent to stay with her great aunt in London. That's when she finds out about the 'spell garden', and that she has inherited the magical powers that help keep this community safe. So when someone, or something, starts to drain the magic from the spell garden, and the community is threatened with development, Alyssa is determined to do what she can to help solve the mystery of the disappearing magic.


Alyssa is a relatable character, slow to make new friends but thrust into a situation where she must draw on her inner strength and kindness to find a way through the situation, as well as manage her new-found magical powers. She learns from her mistakes, and also from the children around her, who bury their differences to find a way through their problems.


Author Alexandra Sheppard has found a distinctive way to explore the problem of 'gentrification' faced by many urban communities, and does so with sensitivity and hope. The community she creates and the care with which she explores Alyssa's family links to their Jamaican heritage all add layers to the story, making this a positive story about dual heritage and community links, as well as a fabulous story with a mystery at its heart.


Alyssa and the Spell Garden is a relatable story that would make a great read-aloud - I can imagine all the spells the children will be inspired to create after reading this story, as well as giving them a deeper appreciation of their own communities. An enjoyable read; highly recommended.


336 pages / Reviewed by Elen Green

Suggested Reading Age 9+

Hayley

Alyssa and the Spell Garden is an enchanting fantasy story that is set in a small London community. Alexandra Sheppard uses the story to highlight the reality of gentrification within a poor urban area of London that has its heart in the centre of a magical garden.


Alyssa is an 11-year-old girl whose parents have just separated and is forced to spend the summer holidays with a relative of her mothers that she has never met. Her mother never really speaks about her family due to a family feud and she has never really introduced Alyssa to her Jamaican heritage. So when Alyssa goes to live with her mother's Aunt Jasmine and spend the summer helping her with the tea shop, she is not prepared for what she discovers.


The tea shop is no ordinary shop and Alyssa soon realises that she is no ordinary 11-year-old. Aunt Jasmine explains to Alyssa that she has magical powers within her blood that descend from her great -grandmother -Effie. The tea shop fronts a magical spell garden that contains a magical school for the community - Silverleaf. The children of the community are invited to learn about magical plants and their qualities, but to their parents, the garden is just an allotment as adults are unaware of the magic that protects them. The magic produced in the garden helps to protect the community and keep it safe.


Alyssa along with her cousin Rue are soon taking part in their grounding ceremony that allows them to practice magic as a Keeper-in-training. However, as the days pass, the magical protection on the community seems to be faltering. New business are popping up overnight and long-term residents are being pushed out. With Aunt Jasmine not feeling her-self, Alyssa and her cousins begin to investigate why the magic is running out. With the developers hounding the community residents and the bulldozers ready to demolish the shop, they must find a way to fix everything quickly.


This book has an excellent story line that will intrigue any young reader that likes to read magical realism novels. It also has themes on non-binary, gentrification, dyslexia and family feuds. I feel that this book takes an ordinary situation and makes it extraordinary by adding in the magical elements. Children will be able to empathise with characters and their situations and understand how emotions and actions can be dealt with. This would make an excellent end-of-day story or be an excellent addition to any school library.


326 pages / Reviewed by Hayley Summerfield, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+

 

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