Poppy Pendle is different – really different. Poppy Pendle is magic. She is a witch who doesn't want to be a witch: She doesn't want to brew potions, or cast spells, or ride a broomstick. Flying on a broomstick makes her sick, in fact. Poppy wants to bake instead. Baking is her passion. It is her life, and she is devoted to it, and absolutely extraordinary at it. She was literally born into it... You see, Poppy was born on the floor of Patisserie Marie Claire, a small French bakery.
But her parents have other ideas. For some reason, in Poppy's world, magic is exclusively female, and runs in certain families. The gift of magic occurs to a girl in Poppy's family only every four generations, so Mr. and Mrs. Pendle are very excited. They want her to pursue a life of magic. They want her to use her gift.
So, rather than sending her to a regular elementary school, they send her to Ruthersfield Academy, a school for witches like Poppy. But Poppy hates Ruthersfield, where everything revolves around magic. Besides, the inside of the building is hot and stuffy. And the other students tease her like there's no tomorrow because she would rather bake cupcakes than cast spells.
After three years like this, Poppy can't stand it anymore. She runs away to Patisserie Marie Claire (she doesn't realize that she was born there; her parents never told her). Marie Claire Gentille, the woman who runs the patisserie, lets her in, and Poppy stays there for a week before her parents find her and bring her back home. Now Poppy is angry, and rightly so. The patisserie is the only place she has ever felt truly happy, and it has been taken away from her.
The next day, at Ruthersfield, the girls are taught a very special spell, a spell that, when used with enough emotion, could turn something into a solid stone statue. That night Poppy gets into a serious fight with her parents, and she turns them to stone. And her parents aren't the only things to turn to stone: Animals, fish, and other people get changed too, as well as Poppy's own heart.
This is a good book for younger readers, 8 or 9 and up (even though Poppy curses her parents and turns them to stone, the book does have a happy ending). I read this book for the first time in second or third grade, and I thought it was a lot of fun to read. But I hadn't read it in at least 2 years, until this week. I still liked it, but it definitely seemed a bit more childish than the books I like reading nowadays. So maybe kids over age 10 or 11 might feel the same.
However, I still love one of the best parts of this book: the 12 recipes of Poppy's at the end of the novel!
Daddy's Afterthoughts: Julia takes a step back from YA titles into a younger read this go-around. This book may be a little much for kids who are just into chapter books, but if your children are already reading longer, substantial YA fare (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Golden Compass, The Giver, A Wind in the Door, The Outsiders) then they have probably missed their Poppy Pendle window. Perhaps not coincidentally, Poppy herself is only 10. Lovers of the movie Frozen will recognize touches of Elsa in her magical-power-run-amok-and-throwing-a-hissy-fit-and-shutting-herself-away-from-the-world phase. If Hogwarts had an elementary school, and Elsa attended it, and dressed in all black, she might be Poppy Pendle. Actually, that's not a bad way to think of the book. For readers 8, 9, 10, 11, who are not ready for 500+ page fantasy tomes, this book will do the trick. And some of the recipes do look really yummy.