Anna Zobel, Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters, Penguin Random House Australia, June 2021, 272 pp., RRP $ 14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760896096
It’s been a few months since Little Gem accidentally magicked herself through time and space to the small town of Ellsworth Pining. She’s settled in well as the town witch, doing what she does best, helping people.
Everyone is preparing for the Midsummer Festival, and Little Gem is excited to be in charge of special effects for the annual Midsummer Play. However, Gem’s newfound confidence plummets when spell after spell starts to awry, doing more harm than good. Just to make things worse, she begins to receive mysterious, anonymous letters, telling her to leave Ellsworth Pining or else!
Little Gem is anxious about what might happen and worried that the play will be a disaster thanks to her. Will Gem be able to discover the source of these mysterious letters, and regain control of her magic before opening night?
Little Gem and the Mysterious Letters is the second book in the Little Gem series and is a delightful addition. I felt the letters that Gem receive are a metaphor for cyberbullying. Little Gem had been bullied before, at Witchcraft School, but this is different. She doesn’t know who is sending them, so there is no way to stand up for herself, and she doesn’t know who to trust. She constantly tries her best to help her friends despite this, but the story shows how these mean words affect her self-esteem and mental health.
Some of my favourite aspects of the book were learning more about the characters and trying to solve the mysteries. Although there are clues throughout the book, I was still pleasantly surprised by the unpredictable plot twists and dramatic reveals. There is also some good representation in this series, without it being the focus, which I appreciate. The illustrations throughout the book are wonderful and drew me into the story, and the cover art is beautiful. The large and friendly text is perfect for young readers.
With the same core messages and lovely writing as its predecessor, I think I may have enjoyed this book even more than the last. I’d recommend Little Gem and The Mysterious Letters by Anna Zobel for kids aged 6-9 years who want a little magic in their lives, and a protagonist with struggles they can relate to.
Reviewed by Libby Boas