Ashley King

Witches (Un)Welcome!

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As usual, nothing exciting is happening in Smallbridge. Elsie Pickles is still helping in Pickles’ Emporium, but is finding it very dull. To amuse herself, she has been dabbling with magic she has learned from Magenta Sharp, the Red Witch from Crookfinger Forest.. However, magic is frowned on in Smallbridge and so when Magenta decides to open a magic shop, ‘Sharp Spells the Shop', many of the locals make it clear that witches are not welcome in their town. As Magenta’s shop tempts more and more visitors to Smallbridge, tensions come to a head. But perhaps a little magic is just what everyone needs?!

Great favourites here at JABHQ, I was delighted to find that there is a third to this wonderful series of books which are both fun and funny! For those who haven’t read the others, there is a helpful summary of characters and events at the beginning to set you on the right path.

As usual the story bounces along at a good pace and is full of fabulous characters. Elsie is her usual lovely self, but even she finds it hard to remain cool in the face of some of the intolerance and bigotry displayed by other residents of Smallbridge. Magenta is as irritable and unconventional as ever and leans the hard way that taking shortcuts is not always a wise way of getting what you want!

There is a strong message running through the story about lack of acceptance and people being ‘witchist’. Kaye Umansky exposes the narrow minded ideas of some townspeople which sadly seem to reflect those of a sector of society. However, by the end of the book, most people agree that the introduction of witches to their town has been a positive change and harmony is restored.

Ashley King’s wonderful illustrations appear throughout the book- most pages have a touch of his magic! He manages to capture the characters perfectly, adding to the humour of the story. They really are a winning team!

‘Witches’ (Un)Welcome’ is full of wit, wisdom and wonderful illustrations! A great one to add to your summer reading!

Witches (Un)Welcome Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471175602

You can read our review of ‘Witch for a Week’ which was long listed for our Read Aloud Category last year here and ‘A Wish for a Witch’ here.

Wish for a Witch


Back home with her family in Smallbridge, Elsie Pickles has put on her best outfit and a pretty blue shoes with ribbons and is celebrating May Day with the rest of the townspeople. Given to her by a witch, the shoes suddenly develop a mind of their own and lead her away from the celebrations- followed by Nuisance the dog- to The Pickles’ Emporium where Magenta Sharp, that very witch, is waiting for her.

Magenta’s business ‘Sharp Spells on Tap’ is in trouble and delighted to find her help is needed once more, Elsie returns to Crookfinger Forest where she is reunited with old friends. But with a grumpy genie on the loose and a mountain of unopened orders and dissatisfied customers, has Elsie taken on too much this time?

The second adventure for Elsie Pickles and her friends is every bit as enjoyable as the first. Kaye Umansky’s light-hearted, humorous style is simply a joy to read and the story bounces along at a great pace with plenty of action and adventure. Elsie remains one of the most delightful characters I have read about recently, with her positive outlook, caring nature and friendly disposition. All the characters- animal, human and building- really bubble with life and Corbett must be the best raven around!

With Ashley King’s wonderful illustrations, ‘Wish for a Witch’ is a brilliant follow-up to ‘Witch for a Week’, long listed for this year’s awards. An enchanting read!

Wish for a Witch Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King

Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1471160936

You can read out review of ‘Witch for a Week’ here.


All 80 titles for the six categories of our long list have now been reviewed! Each and every one a fantastic book, highly recommended by JAB and the NSTAB team.

The short list will be announced on the 8th September. Votes from the panel are already coming in so here's a little reminder of the twelve fabulous books on the Read Aloud Category Long List.


Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow- Jessica Townsend (Orion)


Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure – Alex T Smith (Hodder)


Fabio The World's Greatest Flamingo Detective: The Case of the Missing Hippo- Laura James, illustrated by Emily Fox (Bloomsbury)


The Chocolate Factory Ghost- David O'Connell and Clare Powell (Bloomsbury)


You Can't Make Me Go to Witch School- Em Lynas, illustrated by Jamie Littler (Nosy Crow)


Yours Sincerely Giraffe-Megumi Iwasa & Jun Takabatake (Gecko Press)


Codebusters- Dan Metcalf, illustrated by Gary Cherrington (Bloomsbury)

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Witch for a Week- Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Ashley King (Simon and Schuster)


Kat Wolfe Investigates- Lauren St John (Macmillan)

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The Book Case - Dave Shelton (David Fickling)

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The Return of the Railway Children- Lou Kuenzler (Scholastic)

Of these twelve terrific titles, which four will become the 2018 NSTBA Read Aloud short list?