Phoebe McArthur, Lucy Newton Cat Trouble, Christmas Press, November 2021, 67 pp., RRP $13.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780648815464
Lucy Newton Cat Trouble is a sequel to Lucy Newton Little Witch, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards (see Reading Time Review, February 2019). I would recommend reading the first book beforehand, as there is assumed knowledge regarding Lucy and her backstory.
Lucy is an apprentice witch. We meet her, together with Thomas her talking cat, as they travel by train to spend the holidays with her grandparents. Although this book is written by an Australian author, it has a very British feel to it. It refers to ‘lochs’ rather than lakes, and the trouble-maker (when revealed) is a water kelpie. These references may need some explaining for young readers unfamiliar with British tropes.
There are eleven short chapters with 72 pages, making this an approachable chapter book for young readers. The simple black and white illustrations break-up the text, again making it less daunting for beginners. The plot involves spells that go wrong and talking books, plus the aforementioned magical cat and water kelpie: sure to engage the reader’s imagination.
I felt the book ended a bit abruptly. I was also puzzled by a spell that looks like it should rhyme (on paper), but doesn’t when read aloud, which I think could confuse young readers:
A dish like this is best served warm
But not so hot it does me harm.
The format (trim size) is smaller than the usual paperback, making it perfect for small hands! I’m sure that Lucy Newton will appeal to young readers who are transitioning to chapter books. It is recommended for ages 5 to 9 years old.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares