Sunday, December 3, 2023

Today's read... Worst Broommate Ever! by Wanda Coven

Today's read is so shiny and glittery! So when looking at the cover, imagine lots of sparkle and shine. That's not the only reason I was happy to get my hands on a copy, though.  This series settles right between beginning chapter book readers and full-fledged middle grade reads. It should offer middle school drama but with magic, too. I'm hoping it doesn't get cliche, since this could be a cute read.

Let's open it up and see if it casts a spell!

Middle School and Other Disasters
by Wanda Coven
Illustrated by Anna Abramskaya
Simon Spotlight
Middle Grade Fantasy
352 pages
ages 6 to 10

Heidi Heckelbeck is going to middle school! Longtime fans of the chapter book series and new fans just meeting Heidi for the first time will love this hilarious first book in the Middle School and Other Disasters series—featuring black-and-white illustrations and doodles throughout!

It’s goodbye, Brewster Elementary and hello, Broomsfield Academy when Heidi starts middle school at the only school in the country that has secret classes for witches in training! Heidi is excited but nervous about living on her own and making new friends (and new crushes)! Her first day takes a turn for the worse when Heidi discovers her roommate is none other than her old rival, Melanie Maplethorpe! Melanie is also less than thrilled, and the two find themselves engaged in an epic prank war. But when magic enters the mix, will the reluctant roommates go too far?

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With a dusting of magic, middle school life hits unexpected roommates, new friends, and a touch of homesickness, too.

Heidi is off to boarding school, which would be awful (she does love her regular middle school) if this wasn't the only school where she can learn more about magic. Plus, she won't have to hide her abilities from everyone anymore, since among the regular usual students, there will be other witches and wizards there, too (duh!). Leaving home does make her anxious, and her nerves shift into high gear when she discovers who her roommate is. Any hopes of having a good year shatter as now she wishes she could find a way to ditch the worst roommate ever.

This is a great book to hit that middle path between those first chapter books and longer reads. At 300+ pages, it looks thick, but the text is written in larger font (sometimes, very large font) with lots of spacing in between to keep the feeling of being bogged down by words far away. There are many illustrations to break it up and bring scenes to life, and these are sprinkled in every few pages (not every page). The chapters are longer from page length as well. So, it soothes nervous readers, while preparing them for larger readers.

Heidi narrates this one almost like a diary entry or speaking with the reader like a best friend. She's open, has understandable thoughts (even when she's not always right), and is genuinely a kind person...but also has her slightly mischievous side. The interactions with her family are wholesome and fun, while the ones with friends and classmates invite in. It's easy to feel part of the group and experience the familiar settings and issues. The problems she faces are pretty straight-forward and fit the age group very well. 

The magical end is like icing on a cake. The story is well-grounded in normal life as are the interactions. The moments of magic are enough to spark the imagination but don't go to the extreme. There is the secret door to the magic school, which adds a nice bit of mystery. There's an original atmosphere to this school, which sets it apart from many magic-academy-reads. For example, the school store is located in what was once a barn. Since the humans aren't supposed to know about the magic, even these aspects are as usual as usual can be. It creates an easy world to connect with and sink into, while adding just the right pinch of fantasy and dreams.

And here they are...

Wanda Coven has always loved magic. When she was little, she used to make secret potions from smooshed shells and acorns. Then she would pretend to transport herself and her friends to enchanted places. Now she visits other worlds through writing. Wanda lives with her husband and son in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They have three cats: Hilda, Agnes, and Claw-dia.

Anna Abramskaya was born in Sevastopol, Ukraine. She graduated from Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts in 2006. Then she moved to US where she’s currently living in the beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida. Anna has loved art since she was little and has tried different materials and techniques. The process of creation and seeing beauty in the simple things around her always brings her joy and the wish to share that feeling with everyone. Anna wants to believe that art can help bring more love into people’s hearts. Find out more at

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