“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Once a Witch • Young adult fiction

Once a Witch
by Carolyn MacCullough
September 2009 • Clarion • YA fiction  Ages 12 and up
She's the only witch in the family with no apparent talent -- so how is she supposed to save them from the powerful forces allied against them?

Advance praise from favorite and best-selling teen authors:
"A fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart." -- Cassandra Clare, New York Times best-selling author of CITY OF BONES

"Family secrets and sibling rivalry, time-travel and magical "Talents" all brew together to create a superlative -- and supernatural -- coming-of-age story. Add an epic battle of good versus evil and an enchanting first kiss and this bewitching novel commands a sequel." -- Megan McCafferty, New York Times-best-selling author of the Jessica Darling series.

Family misfit Tamsin Greene is glad to be far away at a Manhattan boarding school. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, she goes for it—and promises to find his lost family heirloom. Unfortunately, the task (and the stranger) prove far more sinister than she expected, and she’s forced on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful it could destroy them all.

Story behind the story:

Here's what author Carolyn MacCullough has to say about how ONCE A WITCH came to be, the writing, the setting, teen talent, and her favorite authors:

The spark: All of my stories start with a character telling me something urgent. With Once a Witch, I heard Tamsin’s voice in my head saying she was born into a magical family—and yet she herself had no magical talent whatsoever. I wondered: How would she cope in a family like that? What kind of person would that make her be?

Conjuring voices: When I’m writing, I channel my inner teen. The outer trappings may have changed, but the emotional turmoil is still relevant. It’s a little like getting to redo your high school years: I try to write characters who are better, smarter, funnier, quicker, and possess more character strength than I felt I was / had as a teenager.

Lured by the city: The seeds of where to set the story came when I took up running—for about two weeks. I would run through Brooklyn Heights, and to distract myself I would try to appreciate beautiful architectural details. One house had a little gargoyle statue. He always seemed to be grinning. I used to wonder what stories he would tell if he could talk.

A board decision: I wanted Tamsin to be separated from her family—both emotionally and physically. Being in boarding school is her chance to escape the sometimes smothering arms of her family and shine on her own. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by boarding school because I never went to one myself.

Who’s got Talent?: I think everyone feels inadequate and left out at times from family or friends. So I always offer this advice: find your talent. Whether you’re a really amazing singer, or a genius at math (two things I sort of wish I were and am so clearly not), whatever it may be, just follow that talent and see where it takes you.

A-musing the author: I love fantasy, so some of my favorite writers are Patricia McKillip, Tamora Pierce, Robert McKinley, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling (of course!), Guy Gavriel Kay, Susan Cooper, and Neil Gaiman. Sometimes I listen to music when I’m writing, but it has to be something I know pretty well so it’s not distracting. For this book I listened to Loreen McKennitt and Govinda a lot.

The Once a Witch website offers an excerpt, facts and misconceptions about witches, quizzes, a reader's guide and more.

FYI: all the review copies for this book have been sent; please click on the comments link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Mrs. Horne said...

Oh PLEASE let me get a copy of this book! I have been dying to read it since it first appeared in another post on the picnic basket. I have already pre-ordered it but would MUCH rather read it this summer than wait!

Liz said...

My former YA daughter loves this kind of book, so I'll be sure to tell her about it.She recently compiled a list of authors for a current YA reader, and several of this author's favorites (including Tamora Pierce, a huge favorite of my daughter's) are on her list as well. Another good YA fantasy fiction book is "Rumor & Qix" by Kathleen Wilson. It's set far in the future and has an environmental theme. My daughter liked that it has a strong, independent female teen as the main character who follows her intuition, fights for what she believes in and who she loves, takes risks and -- above all! -- makes things happen.

Rebecca said...

Everyone in her family has a Talent, except for Tamsin. She's clever, sassy, and seventeen, but simply cannot compare to her stunningly beautiful, charming, older sister, Rowena. Tamsin isn't a witch, like everyone else she's related to. She struggles with that fact since her eight birthday party when her Talent never manifested. As a disappointment to her family, she adopts an outsider identity which most readers can relate to. She escapes the familiar witchy commune in search of normalcy--a Manhattan boarding school. She leads a normal life of sneaking cigarettes, studying for SATs, and brandishing fake I.D.s to enter clubs and drink beer, until, one day, her older sister Rowena, is not herself.

After handsome, older Alistair Callum walks into her grandmother's bookshop, Tamsin accepts the task of locating a lost object for Callum. The project sends her back in time to 1939 and 1887 where she encounters several ancestors. As her true Talent dawns, she must preserve not just her sister's life, but her kinfolks’ way of life.

Tamsin’s tale illustrates the universality of unrealized talents and their uniqueness and the importance of family. MacCullough's writing is sophisticated, captivating, and promises cross-over appeal to adults. The occasional sexual innuendo, stealthily smokes cigarettes, and normal teen rebellion is nothing shocking. MacCullough surely casts a spell on readers; I reluctantly put Once a Witch down two or three times and am still smiling at certain lines, like this one, "She gave me a fleeting smile, a lip spasm, really..." (75) Her storytelling is brisk and packed with action. The open-ended resolution promises more installments of Tamsin’s adventures.

Strongly recommended.

Rebecca Tolley-Stokes, Reference Librarian, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.

Mary said...

With all the Twilight/Harry Potter fans out there, I was thinking to myself that this book would be a knockoff of one of those two things. A wanna-be book. Boy was I wrong!!

Tamsin is a girl that feels as though she doesn't belong in her family. Its a feeling that every teenage girl feels at some point in her life. Everyone else in Tamsin's family has a Talent, except for her. She sees an opportunity to prove to her family that she is talented. Its after taking this risk, that the adventure and danger begin.

This book is filled with well written characters, engaging dialogue, and wonderful settings. The characters are relatable and the theme of the book is something that todays youth really needs to hear.

I give this book 5 out of 5. A definite recommended read!

Linda said...

I just received the book and took it with me on a trip. At first, I thought the story was going to be a carbon copy of Twilight-ish books. But, I was wrong. Tasmin's character builds up as you read the book and her personality begins to become stronger as her Talent becomes more evident. Yes, there is a bit of sexual references and not so nice words, but it's for YA not elementary age children. I give it a 5 out of 5.

ESnover said...

Just finished reading this book and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel! I think any student who is interested in fantasy, coming of age stories, or just likes a good story will enjoy this book. I give it a 4 out of 5.

jlarkin said...

I just have to say...I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I got it in the mail on Friday, started it Saturday morning and finished it by late afternoon. I couldn't put it down - it had me hooked right from the beginning.

At birth, Tamsin's grandmother proclaimed that she would one of the most powerful witches the family has seen...fast forward 17 years and we discover nothing has come of that prophecy, Tamsin has no Talent. Ever the outsider in her own family, Tamsin is quickly taken in one afternoon by the older, handsome Alistair Callum while working at the family bookstore. Mistaking her for her older and Talented sister Rowena, Alistair hires Tamsin to find a lost object of great importance. And so begins the mystery of the story...who is Alistair Callum? Why is the clock so important? Why does it look familiar to Tamsin? What is her family hiding? Does Tamsin really have a Talent?

Beautifully written, detailed, suspenseful, and funny - this novel has it all. I loved the interaction between Rowena and Tamsin - especially when Alistair becomes involved. I also loved learning about all of the family Talents. Tamsin is an amazing character and I enjoyed reading as her relationship with Gabriel developed and strengthened. The story is definitely one of a kind and I know my 7th grade female students will LOVE this story. How soon before the sequel comes out????!!!!!

A definite 5 out of 5. I would bring multiple copies to a picnic and give them out to everyone I see.

Heather said...

Comparisons to Harry Potter or Twilight are easy to make with this book, but entirely inaccurate. Once a Witch contains more depth of character than Harry Potter and leaves out a lot of the excess romancey teen angst of Twilight.

Once a Witch is a nearly impossible to put down human story. The characters have real problems that are easy to relate to, even if they are about things that most of us won't have to deal with. The romance is just enough to keep the reader interested, but not enough to take over the real story.

Picnic basket rating: 4 out of 5

Laura _SPED Teacher said...

What an intersting story that most young adolescents can relate to in some way, not being able to live up to your siblings. She feels like an outcast in her own family, everyoe else has a talent and to top it all off, her sister as the looks as well! She breaks free and heads off to live her own lifestlye. An opportunity to show off her talent develops, but turns out to be more dangerous than expected! an excellent read, it will be in my classroom library for sure!

Julie said...

Once a Witch is a book that proves that all fantasy is not the same. It seemed to be the same old fantasy formula....but I was wrong. It is a great story of sibling rivalary and the value of all people. Not for young students. Some "ugly" words.

Rating 5 out of 5

Susan Appleton said...

VERY interesting book about a young girl feeling like an outsider in her own family. I think readers can really identify with Tamsin's struggle to find her own talents and her purpose in the world. I would not recommend it for elementary grades because of some of the language, but the plot is well-written and draws you into the book. Very good novel for young adults! I would give it a 5 out of 5!

Cori said...

I really enjoyed this book and I think my students will too. It's a new take on the fantasy world. Could make for an interesting series.

mishl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mishl said...

This book, despite being aimed at teens, caught my interest from the very first chapter. The lead character, Tamsin has more then the usual teen angst - she is the black sheep of her mystical family. Tamsin is the only member of her large, commune-like household to not have a special "Talent". She is envious of her beautiful sister, Rowena, who is perfect and talented, and Tamsin is pitied by her extended family who don't understand how a baby born with great promise has managed to grow into a high school student so thoroughly ordinary. Through this story, she comes to learn about her family history, solving a mystery and discovering her own strengths.

It is a coming of age story, with fun, humor, romance, adventure, time travel and witchcraft, and allegorical for all teens who are looking to find their "talents". Teens (and adults) will find plenty to enjoy in this book. It is easy to relate to the characters, who are well developed , inviting you to care about and root for them. Tamsin is written with great depth and you feel she is an actual person. Carolyn MacCollough has done a great job of "showing" instead of telling her story. Unlike many other popular teen novels, the lead female character has a strong personality, and stands up for herself. There is romance and some rebellious teen behavior, but nothing too inappropriate for most teens.

I would feel very comfortable adding it to a classroom library and encouraging teens (and adults) to enjoy it. I have several students eager for me to share. I will personally be looking forward to a sequel.

Highly recommended -- Thank you!

dmuldawer said...

Once a Witch is a book to be savored slowly as minute details unveil essential truths about plot and characters.

Although the title of the book would lead readers to believe that this book is going to be all about spells and witchcraft, there's actually relatively little magic involved.

Instead, the focus is on sibling rivalry, on friendship, and on trying to find a sense of identity and internal power.

Some things are hinted at but not explained fully, leaving the reader to wonder who was murdered and how this trapped the Domani, if the knights are actually vampires, why Tamsin's power was never explained to her, and what spell Allistair used to enslave Rowena.

In some ways, this book reminded me of the Disney movie Return to Halloweentown. Domani sounds similar to the Dominion. Tamsin shows the same kind of spunk, independence, and determination as Marnee. Time travel and recovering a lost object of great magical power is in the movie as well.

That said, I found Once a Witch to be extraordinarily well written and quite compelling. After describing the plot to my students, several eager arms snaked toward my book and there's already a waiting list.

This book should do quite well in classroom and general libraries and I'd recommend it highly.

Picnic Basket Rating: 5

Dawn said...

How many teens feel they are the black sheep of the family? How would they feel if they were destined to have more power than their family has ever seen, only to find out they have none?

This is Tamsin's life and she just doesn't see how she fits in with her family of witches. She would rather be at her boarding school with Agatha and other people with no Talent, than at home where she is constantly reminded of her differences. Then in walks Alistair and she pretends to be someone she is not. To find the object that Alistair wants her to locate, Tamsin asks Gabriel for help and the adventures begin.

I loved this book, although I have a taste for witch novels. I recommend without reservation this book for the teen's at your library. Tamsin's feelings are true to life even though she is a witch. The reader will be magically hooked at the beginning of the story and feel the suspense as the story unravels. This is a great read for your realistic fiction fans as much as it is for your fans of fantasy. I will definitely be purchasing a copy for our library.

Dawn VanLerberghe
Baraga Area School
Baraga, MI

Anonymous said...

This is a great book that many students will relate to. It would make a good series, I think teens will want to know more of the story. I may read this book with my freshman English class this year.

Tina Lone
Salem High School

EShay said...

I wasn't entirely sure if I would like Once a Witch, but as I started to read it, I could not put it down. The author definitely has a Talent.
I found Tamsin to be a regular teen although she did not come from a "normal" family. Readers will want to see her succeed and find the happiness she wants so badly.
Although I would caution younger readers, due to some poor habits, most high school students should enjoy this book.

I give it a 5!

Sandra Stiles said...

When Tamsin is born her grandmother proclaims she will be a beacon to the family. She comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately the talented one in her family is her sister Rowena. Tamisin’s magic never showed up. Tamsin is working in her grandmother’s bookstore. When Professor Callum enters. He mistakes Tamsin for her sister and asks her to help him find a clock. She never tells him who she really is. Instead she promises to find it for him. She asks Gabriel, a childhood friend to help her because he has the ability to find things that are lost. The book involves time travel and other events that will intrigue most teens. Add to that a hint of romance between Tamsin and Gabriel and you have a definite winner. I would give this a 5

Ms Gross said...

I loved Once a Witch. Read it in two sittings. The ‘Talented’ characters were fun to spend time with. Fast paced. I can’t wait for a sequel. Not a fan of the gratuitous use of cigarette smoking. It didn’t add to the plot or lend credibility to the “rebellious girl”. I would give this book a 4 – Recommend without Reservation. Lose the smoking and I would give it a 5.

Lemon the Duck said...

Tamsin's story is very relateable. There are times during our adolesence that we feel out of the loop in our own families and are looking for our own sense of self. This book will connect strongly with girls in the YA age group.
There are some flaws in the story, some things that were not followed through on satisfactorially in my opinion. But, overall this story is a page turner. The humor and voice was right on for YA.
Girls will be eager to read more about Tamsin after reading this story.
I rate this story a 4 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Reading Specialist
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Christina said...

While I personally enjoyed Once a Witch very much and will look for the hinted at sequel, I cannot see myself recommending it to my 8th grade readers because of the gratuitous smoking, underage drinking and sexual innuendo.

Picnic Basket Rating: 2

Tricia said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this book and have several students who saw me reading it who can't wait to get their hands on it. Older kids will definitely connect with Tamsin's feelings of not fitting in, of being different. The romantic relationship is very appropriate for middle schoolers. Lots of adventure and a delightful look at witchcraft. Definitely want to read the sequel.

CPA Mom said...

LOVED this book!! See my complete review on this 5+ rated book at http://cpamomva.blogspot.com/2009/08/once-witch.html

Anonymous said...

Once a Which is defenitely a 5 in my picnic basket. I know that the middle school girls will be passing this book around. As I read it I could picture it on the movie screan. I have been waiting to share it with my Twilight fans, because I think that this book is just as good. I thought that all of the characters were very believable. I hope that we will hear more about Tamsin in the future. She was someone that any girl of her age can relate to. It is very hard to find out who you really are and how you fit into your family. The other characters are also very believable. The relationships that Tamsin shares with her roommate and her cousin Gabe. The time travel was also done very well in this book. I know that this is an author that I will look forward to reading in the future, and recommending her books to my students.
Consultant teacher

Jessica said...

A fresh spin on the "teenage witch" story, and such an effortless read! I finished it in one afternoon. I think fantasy-lovers would definitely enjoy it. Middle-schoolers and high-schoolers can probably relate to and identify with the main character Tamsin. I give it a 3.5 out of 5. and would recommend it to YA-readers.

Pamela Kramer said...

When I finished this book I realized that I felt just like I had when I finished "Hunger Games." I was simultaneously disappointed (that I didn't get an ending) and happy (that the book would be continued in a sequel). I will not repeat the book summary which others have done--suffice to say that this is a very enjoyable book which students will not want to put down. It's a perfect book to get someone "hooked" on reading. There are some sexual references, but nothing that would make it inappropriate for students in my district. They see and read magazines that are much racier than this book.

I rate this a 5/5 and want to say--please, please make sure that we get to read and review the sequel!!

John said...

I anxiously awaited the arrival of this book and felt pretty excited when it arrived in my work mailbox. After reading it in one sitting, I feel like I can see where the author took small pieces of Twilight to incorporate into the book. This book, though, is slightly more honest to being a bildungsroman for young girls who have issues feeling as though they are different from everyone else, including those people in their families. The storyline that includes betrayal, sibling rivalry, young love, and realizing one's true potential helps young girls to see a literary version of themselves. Unfortunately, I can't give as much praise for the writing of the book. Thematically, the book is great for students, but I don't see it as a quality piece of writing. Granted, the writing level will allow the book to be more accessible to more students, it just feels as though it could be better written.

I give this book a 3.5 out of 5.

-John Callihan
English Teacher
Buhach Colony High School
Atwater, CA

sloch said...

Tamsin knows she is a disappointment to her family. After her grandmother's prophecy of greatness at her birth, everyone was shocked when Tamsin never developed her Talent. Inevitable comparisons with her beautiful, Talented older sister, Rowena, make the bad situation even worse, and Tamsin rebels any way she can. She escapes her family's commune-like life for boarding school in New York City, she smokes, she drinks, she does her best to provide her family with even more reasons to be disappointed in her. But when a stranger mistakes her for Rowena and asks for her help, Tamsin sees her chance to prove to her family that she isn't entirely useless. Little does she realize that her actions could endanger not just her, but her entire family.

I appreciated the realistic portrayal of interpersonal relationships in this book, especially the sibling rivalry between Tamsin and Rowena. I was especially impressed with the author for not having Tamsin's Talent, when revealed, push Rowena out of her position of power.

Picnic Basket rating 4 out of 5 for the appropriate age group. I would hesitate to give it to some of my middle school students, because of the aforementioned smoking and drinking issues, although they are not gratuitous. With discussion of why Tamsin chose to take the actions she did, this could even be appropriate for some preteens.

Sarah Loch
Library Media Specialist
Carl Albert Middle School
Midwest City, OK

Julia Pitau said...

Once a Witch was very entertaining. The story was well written with details that enable a reader to obtain a strong picture in their mind. This book includes mystery, deception, romance, and a lot of adventure! And even though it is the first in a sequel of books, it ends nicely enough that I don’t feel I HAVE to go out and buy the next one. The down side of this book: smoking and drinking. There is also a significant amount of unnecessary language. When used sparingly and appropriately, language can be defended in order to make a bold statement. I hope Carolyn MacCullough considers using less “seasoned” language in her next installment. She is a talented author.

Picnic rating: 2 ½….read with care in a school setting. I recommend no lower than high school.

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Anonymous said...

As other reviewers have noted, Once a Witch is a tremendously engaging and well-written story. The novel chronicles what happens when Tamsin, formerly the only normal person in a family full of witches, learns that she has great magical powers. These powers come to light when a disaster strikes her family; it is up to Tamsin to save her sister and her grandmother by thwarting others’ powers and traveling through time. The fantasy elements of the novel are dealt with matter-of-factly and are effortlessly combined with more mundane details and events that most teenagers can relate to. A gripping and absorbing read. I read it in one sitting; I think many of my YA patrons will do the same. 5 out of 5.

Sharon Reidt
Brooks Memorial Library

Michelle said...

Tamsin's family may be magical but her problems, feeling different, jealous of a sibling, and being somewhat of a black sheep of the family, are themes that teens can relate too. Here's hoping for a sequel to find out more about Tamsin, her family, and Gabriel.
4 out of 5.

Anonymous said...

I give Once A Witch a 5 out of 5 rating for character development and plot.
I simply enjoyed the character Gabriel. I though he was totally believeable and a typical teenage guy. Parts of it made me laugh out loud!! I also could relate to the feelings Tamsin had for her "perfect" sister and I liked that in the end Tamsin was the one who saved the family. Also, Tamsin's relationship with her parents was a stressed one, but the author ties it all together at the end and that pleased me as a reader.
The plot was great. The time travel, talents and the clocks kept me wanting to finish the book. I think young adults will keep this book from sitting on the shelves!!

Megan K. said...

When giving examples of a "page turner", this is a book that I will hold up as an example to my middle school students. There is a great balance of sentiment and action in this book.
When the characters had to time travel, I sighed in a resigned way, but it was handled very well and furthered the plot greatly.
My students will relate to Tamsin. I don't think her "racy" actions are anything they haven't seen or even done before.
This will be a much loved addition to our "mystical teenage girl" collection.

Megan K.
Middle School English Teacher

Amy said...

Once a Witch is a great book that will teach you that things aren't always what they seem. Iamsin is the only witch in her family that doesn't have a talent. One night a stranger comes to her family shop looking for a family heirloom and then a great adventures goes from there. During this process Tamsin
learns a lot about herself and her family. Right now, I'm hoping for a sequel.

i give this book a 5 out of 5.

Catherine said...

This was a fantastic book. It is a much better story than Twilight was. I enjoyed following Tamsin through her adventures of first trying to be someone she wasn't (her perfect sister, Rowena) and then discovering that she isn't so bad herself. Getting used to her powers is going to be tricky, but as long as Gabriel is there to guide her, she'll be fine.

This was a fun book to read. I never once got bored. I'm sure my students will love to read this story. So much of it mirrors a lot of their own lives that they will get into it.

I rate this a 5.

Catherine Yezak, Special Education Teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

Sara said...

I really enjoyed this book. It is my genre, but I think anyone would love it. The book moved fast and kept my interest until the end. I would absolutly give this book a 5. The characters were great and the story was so different from others on the market now. It is a book I will read and suggest to my students to read.

wordwarrior said...

A fully flavorful and tantalizing treat best describes Carolyn MacCullough's young adult novel, "Once a Witch." Tamsin feels left out. She is different from all the other members of her family because she has no "talent". All other members of her family are witches with talents and special abilities, but Tamsin has none. The story proceeds as Tamsin works to prove herself as capable as her family members only to entangle all her family is a witch hunt of epic proportions. "Once a Witch" is a definate picnic treat for young adult readers. The story grabs the readers attention from the first page with just enough flavor to entice even the most reluctant reader. Like a bag of chips, the reader will want to devour the whole book at one sitting.

Natalie H. said...

Once a Witch is a page-turning fantasy about a family of witches. Though she was supposed to be a powerful witch, Tamsin's Talent didn't emerge. She tries to distance herself from her family until an irresistible challenge presents itself. I really enjoyed this book and hope to see a sequel soon! I'd give this book a 5/5 and would recommend it for ages 16 years and up.

juli said...

Doesn't everyone feel like they don't belong in their family at some time or other-it just usually isn't accompanied by magic powers. I am not usually a fan of fantasy, but this book grabbed my attention and kept me reading. I certainly feel it is appropriate for mature young adult readers, but couldn't the same story be told without the gratuitous smoking, dringing and sexual innuendos. Yes, young adults are faced with many choices and challenges in their lives, but is it really necessary to move the story forward. That being said-I did enjoy the story and would read a sequel.
My rating: 4

Laurie said...

A clever twist on the coming-of-age story, perfect for those Twilight fans who are ready for something a little more complex. Female YA readers will empathize with Tamsin, crush on her love interest (who has way more personality than Edward and, thankfully, doesn't sparkle), and anxiously await her further adventures. I will definitely recommend this to all those teen vampire/werewolf/fairy/urban fantasy fans, as well as those who just enjoy a good plot. 4/5
Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Youth Services Librarian, Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham, MI

Bette said...

This book is delightful and enjoyable. I am sure that my 6 thru 8 graders (girls) will enjoy this book. This a book that I will add to the school library.

It teaches a lesson of loyalty and family support

BrittLit said...

4 Recommend without Reservation This book should be in every picnic basket, it is as good as the perfect potato salad and would be welcome at a coastal or park picnic. You would rummage through the picnic basket to read it.

Tasmin thought she would be special, that's what her grandmother had predicted when she was born. Her grandmother said she would be a beacon to them all. But by Tasmin's 8th birthday she and everyone else realized that she wasn't special. Tasmin doesn't partake in all the festivities that her family cherishes, she holds a grudge because she's not like them, and she doesn't have a Talent. So Tasmin goes to New York City for high school and only comes back for breaks or when she really has to. While at home she works at her grandmother's book store for her. One day a man named Alistair Callum, a professor at NYU, comes in and mistakes her for her sister Rowena and he commissions her to find something for him, a clock. She agrees because she wants to show her family that she can be good even if she doesn't have a talent. With the help of her long lost friend Gabriel she's able to find the clock h asks for. It turns out it wasn't really the clock he wanted, but the power inside. Can Tasmin and Gabriel make things right and stop Alistair from destroying there family? Is there a secret that Tasmin's family has been keeping for her that she must know in order to stop all this madness?

I enjoyed this story of the girl who didn't fit in with her family. The slight magic in a world of the real was very nice, however, not very well done. It didn't seem realistic that Tasmin was this real ordinary person, and then this other girl who grew up in a house of witches. She just didn't seem to crossover between the two very well. Also not to spoil it, but I feel that she might have cared a little more about her "normal" friend, Agatha, a little more at the end. Agatha is completely forgotten, which seemed weird. Although I suppose with the ending that we have this could be the start of a series, in which case the begging of the second book we could worry about good ole' Aggie. This book was a very enjoyable read however and I would definitely read books following this one. The magic and humor and kinda sorta romance were in good proportion, and there was plenty of mystery to go around. I wish it was a little more suspenseful, but even the way it is I did want to keep reading. So if you're looking for a book without a lot of romance, no vampires or werewolves or other non-human beings than this is right up your alley. It’s really worth the read.

cupcake said...

I truly enjoyed this book. I instantly liked Tamsin, and I could see teen readers relating to her and her struggles to fit in with her family. Yes, Tamsin's reasons for feeling out of place may not be the norm for most kids - I can't imagine that many of them have witches for parents - but her sense of alienation and lack of connection were very well written. I also enjoyed her love connection, and I even liked the witch mystery. Those passages were very vivid; I could see the action at Penn Station.

Like other reviewers, I worried that this would be another rehash of vampires or wizards, but it is much fresher. I enjoyed Once a Witch a great, great deal.

Mrs. Horne said...

Okay, I was SO excited to get this book in the mail because the cover just sucked me right in. However, once I started reading I found myself somewhat confused from time to time about the events in the plot.

I kept reading but as I went on there was more and more that I found myself confused about - to the point that I had to go back a few times and re-read passages for clarification. In some instances, I came away still confused.

I love the concept of the book - a young girl who has not discovered her talent and many family secrets that she has to sort through. Unfortunately, the story never did suck me in which was disappointing.

The author does have a way with words as one of the other posters commented - some of the language was just captivating!

Picnic Basket Rating: 4/5

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School

StacyB. said...

I totally enjoyed reading "Once a Witch" and would highly recommend this book to others. It has all the qualities of a book that I can't put down -- well developed characters, a plot that moves along, suspense and action. You will not be disapointed if you read this book as it made me think new thoughts, which is a terrific surprise with a book. Thank you!

Martine Battista said...

I enjoyed this book and there's no doubt that my middle school students would devour it, but the drinking, smoking and language are unnecessary and do absolutely nothing to propel the story. "Catherine, Called Birdy" by Karen Cushman and -"Tell Me Everything" by Carolyn Coman come to mind as examples where the salty language is used for a reason and with great effect. "Once a Witch" appears to be peppered with unneeded elements. The story is compelling and interesting in it's own right. I think middle school students would enjoy this book more than high school kids, but because of the language it's audience will be limited. I rate it a 3 for high school and up.

Denair Elementary/Middle School Library
Denair, CA

Amy said...

Middle School and High School girls who are fans of this genre will enjoy the story of Tamsin, but the strong language/sexual references may be too much for younger readers.

4 out of 5.

School Librarian
Houston, Texas

6th grade Language Arts teacher said...

I rate this book a 4.

I couldn’t put this book down! It was so unlike any book I’ve read recently. It seamlessly wove fantasy and reality, a feat rarely accomplished well. I thoroughly enjoyed the love story between Tamsin and Gabriel, although I would have liked a little more “hard to get” in the beginning. The reason I couldn’t label this book a 5 was because of the unnecessary underage drinking. I feel that it was not an integral part of the story and could/should be left out. As a teacher, I value the teaching moments of bad language, etc. in literature because this can bring about great discussion of strong emotions, etc. However, the drinking was brought up so nonchalantly that it was bothersome. I was so excited to put this book in my 6th grade classroom library but now I can’t because of the unnecessary inappropriateness. Overall, this book is funny, sweet, heartwarming, and clever, but could do with a little appropriate editing.

6th grade Language Arts teacher
Denver, Colorado
Title 1, urban and minority school

Heather said...

I like the premise of the story. Tamsin Greene comes from a family with 'talent'. Except when it comes time for Tamsin's talent to appear, nothing happens. She grows up feeling out of place in her family full of witches. One night Tamsin meets a mysterious customer who wants help from her grandmother. Here is where the excitement begins.

So, although the plotline was cool, some of the execution felt sloppy to me. Dialog felt forced, and the ending seemed all jumbled and rushed, unlike the beginning of the story.

3 out of 5 stars

Heather Hart
Librarian/Newport Beach Public Library

Julie P. said...

Evidently, I have been in the mood lately for some YA fantasy books. One that I recently read is called ONCE A WITCH by Carolyn MacCullough. I liked the premise of the book -- that a young girl belongs to a family of witches, yet she hasn't discovered what her magical talent is. To make matters even worse, when Tamsin was born her grandmother stated that she would be the most "Talented" of them all. I was excited to read this novel because I had a feeling that Tamsin could potentially be a great character.

While I enjoyed this book, I can't say that I loved it. It's not that I don't think this book has its audience -- there are plenty of girls who will love Tamsin and her story. It's just that as a 40 year old mother of two, I couldn't really relate to the 17 year old Tamsin and some of her actions. Tamsin was a much more worldly teenager than I ever was (or hopefully my daughter will be.) There were a few sexual situations and some discussion of drinking and smoking in this novel. And as a result, I'm not sure that I agree with the recommended age range of 7th grade and up. I probably would want my daughter to be a little older than 12 before reading this book.

Having said all of that, I did really like Tamsin; and I enjoyed how the author developed her character. While Tamsin wasn't exactly like a normal teenager in that she came from a family of witches, she still had so many of the same feelings that today's teenagers experience. She didn't feel like her family understood her or that she belonged anywhere. She also felt like she had to keep secrets from her friends and that she lived in the shadow of a more "perfect" older sister. She had those all-to-normal feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, and I think many young girls will relate to her emotions.

What I really appreciated was how much Tamsin's character changed throughout the novel. In so many ways, ONCE A WITCH really was a coming-of-age story (and you know how much I like books about teenagers maturing and facing adult situations.) She discovers so much about herself and her inner strengths, while also facing realities about her family. I thought Ms. MacCullough captured the essence of a teenager and the conflicts they face in growing up extremely well.

In addition to the character development, I thought the story of Tamsin tracking down a professor's family heirloom to be interesting. There was the age-old conflict between good and even; and I liked that the story included not only some magic, but also time travel. (And I'll admit that I'm not usually a big fan of time travel.) In addition, I enjoyed the romance storyline, and I even managed to be surprised a few times with the twists and turns. Overall, I thought the book had a terrific combination of these different elements, and I was very impressed with how the author pulled it all off.

Megan B. said...

With a paranormal trend happening in YA fiction (vampires, witches/wizards, zombies), I thought Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough would just be another indistinguishable book trying to follow the trend. While I am sure the author had the trend in mind, she was able to write a book that still stands out. I really enjoyed this book. I would of course recommend it to all of the Harry Potter and Twilight fans, but I think this book can hold its own. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Anonymous said...

Once a Witch is a highly entertaining novel. While reading I was constantly drawn by its mystery, distinct settings, and phenomenal characterization.

Tamsin is a strong character. I loved that she was genuine. Her flaws made her easily relatable to today's students. I think most teens will appreciate a main character who is not and tries not to be perfect.

Full of adventure and fast paced, teens will enjoy this book because of its uniqueness and messages about individual strengths, finding one's own identity and sibling rivalry.

For middle school students, I would rate this a 2. Many of the aspects in the book are better suited for older teens. For high school students, Once a Witch is easily a 4.

Language Arts Teacher

Bloggin Betty said...

I read this advanced copy as a reviewer, and it was ok. Definitely your average supernatural/fantasy book like those popping up everywhere. A good, quick read, but nothing Harry Potter or Fablehavenish about it. I hate the casual drinking, drug use for teens. I don't care if that's what the norm is. We don't have to glorify it.

I give it a 2 out of 5.

Lindsey B.
Adjunct Faculty, Utah

Heather Hill said...

"Once a Witch" by Carolyn MacCullough is a strong story whose plot pulls you in fast. The characters have layers like an onion...pull off another layer and see what else comes out in the story. I think young adults will identify with Tamsin and her personal struggle of not fitting in with her family. To her surprise, Tamsin realizes that the struggle has shaped her into her present strong self.

I loved the book and am hoping that a sequel will tie up the loose ends. I will be sharing this with other adult friends in addition to students -- it was that good.

I give "Once a Witch" 5 out of 5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Seventh grade teacher said...

My seventh graders are frequent Picnic Basket contributors, but I was simply unable to get this book reviewed. The first four kids who checked it out gave it back the next day -- boring, confusing, not my thing. I tried it on two really reliable, fast, skilled, willing-to-suffer-for-the-sake-of-reviewing readers and both gave up reluctantly at about the 100-page mark. I don't doubt that it might be suitable for kids who read a lot of fantasy but it did not click for my population -- first time that's ever happened.

A. Hunt said...

I have to apologize for the tardiness of my review, but I must be honest that I was a bit stumped as how to review "Once a Witch". I thought it was well written and I loved the contemporary setting, sibling rivalry, and the craziness of family dynamics. But I do not feel comfortable putting it on my middle school bookshelf due to the language, drinking, sexual innuendo, and realistic depiction of witchcraft. Right, wrong, or indifferent - my middle school parents would have a COW over the chanting in a circle in the woods.

Therefore, I give it a 2 / 5.

A. Hunt
Middle School Language Arts
Fort Walton Beach, FL

Catherine said...

This story delivers. It has almost every commercial hook imaginable: magic, time travel, a family feud, sibling rivalry, mystery, and the discovery that Tam does indeed have not one, but several, powerful talents. It also has romance, which the summary neglects to mention. Gabriel, Tam’s childhood friend, has come back into her life, now sexy, funny, and more than willing to assist her in finding the lost object. The plot moves swiftly in most places. The characters are well-drawn. The writing is both beautifully evocative, but also commercially slick. The book was published by Clarion, but it could’ve as easily been bought by Harlequin for its new teen paranormal line.

Unlike Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy, of which Once a Witch reminded me, I wasn’t able to lose myself in it. Nonetheless teens should love it, especially those who enjoy Cassandra Claire, Libba Bray, Melissa Marr, and, of course, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.

For teen readers, I’d give it a 5 of 5.
Catherine Ensley
Children’s Librarian, Latah County Library District, Moscow, Idaho

Tasses said...

Here's my belated review:
Reading Rumpus
Reading Specialist
Picnic Basket Rating: 4/5

Anonymous said...

This a really fun read for Young Readers who enjoy magic fantasy. The main character is a strong willed, confident young woman. The plot is intriguing and the characters are clever and fun. I would recommend this book to a young reader for leisure reading. 3/5

Kimberli said...

Once A Witch is a good book, but not a great one. The plot is fun and full of promise, but the story itself seems a bit forced. It includes everything you'd expect in a YA book without adding anything new and exciting. The drinking and smoking make it a difficult book to recommend to the target age group. It seemed unnecessary to include these controversial topics. I think there are much more effective ways to make the main character vulnerable and not "perfect" without adding underage drinking and chain smoking.

I thought it was a fun, quick read, but not a book I would recommend to friends or teens.

3 out of 5

Charity Lynn said...

This book is one book that I must say is a definite must-have in any library's YA section. Tasmin is such a great character and I must say that so many kids these days feel they dont' fit in with their families, so she is that much more endearing.

The story is extremely well written and has a great plot line - my only hope is that it will have a sequel as the ending left me burning to read more.

Definitely recommend, I devoured the book in about 3 hours!

5 out of 5 stars!

Julia Pitau said...

Just a quick update: The students at my school are checking this out as quickly as I put it back on the shelf. When asked their oppinions, I have received only positive comments with the hope of a sequel! Great job!

Denair Charter Academy
Denair, CA

Kay Bowes, Youth Services Librarian said...

Witches are almost a dime a dozen now, in YA literature, but this witch stands out above most. Tamsin comes from a very long line of witches. It was prophesied that she would be the greatest of her time but. . . nothing happened; she seemed to be just a normal girl. Everything started to become clear when she promised to “find” something for a stranger. Finally, her powers became clear, but could she use them to save her sister and her world?
Well crafted, this novel will grab the reader from the first chapter and hold on until the very end. Characters are well developed and there is certainly lots of action and suspense. The authenticity of the language of teens is universal. Perhaps a little lighter in tone and subject matter than some of MacCullough’s other works– although still dealing with themes of personalities and fitting into society – this is a great read! Offer it to those readers who relish the weird world of witches, “other worlds”, and time travel – they will find it to their liking. This is a quick read but there are lots of elements to munch on, even when the book is done.

Rating: 2

Kay Bowes, Youth Services Librarian
Brandywine Hundred Library
Wilmington, DE

srichardson said...

I have never been a big fan of all of the magic-y books (Twilight, etc. ) except Harry Potter, and Once A Witch did not change my opinion.

Tasmin comes from a family of witches, and at birth her grandmother proclaimed that she would be the most talented of them all. Unfortunatly, she never gets her powers, unlike her sister Rowena. Rowena has it all: beauty, charm and talent.

At 17, Tasmin is at boarding school in Manhattan, NY, where she is "normal." During the summer, she has to work at her family's book/magic store. When an adventure approaches her, she takes the opportunity to prove that her family has talent, only to have something sinister arise.

Many students like this book, but I wasn't fond of it, with it's underage drinking, drugs, and sex. I'll give it a 2 out of 5, but I still highly recommend having it on the bookshelf, since it is such a popular genre.

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading this book. I thought it was very well writtena and can say that if you know someone who likes this type of genre, they will like this. The story was engaging and I think it will be a hit. Enjoy! I would give it a 4 out of 5.

Ms. Armstrong said...

I enjoyed reading Once a Witch and wanted to find out what happened. I would have liked a little more tension to the romance between Tamsin and Gabriel. I definitely thing that it will appeal to young adult readers. The little bit of mature language seemed a bit out of place, since it was only in one or two scenes. Overall, I liked reading this book and will read the sequel to find out what happens to Tamsin and her family. 4 out of 5

Christina said...

I am not one to usually read this type of genre, but this book really kept me intersted. The story moved a bit fast in places, but not enough to confuse the reader. The story was made believable by the setting and the typical teen actions of the main characters.

I was a bit put off by the underage drinking and smoking - I would probably not recommend this for a catholic school library.

I would give it a 4/5 - and recommend it to the 'older' teen reader.

Kim said...

I loved the beginning of Once a Witch and thought that it was going to be one of my favorite books. Then and maybe it was because I read it in chunks the language and storyline just didn't fit. I didn't get it. I would give it a 2 out of 5.

Mrs. Vincent said...

Once a Witch

By Carolyn MacCullough

I really enjoyed this book! It's about a girl who's family are all witches and have Talents that manifest when they are eight except for her family hides her Talent from her and she goes on thinking she's the only one in the family who isn't Talented until one day an evil/dark witch comes along and tricks her into helping him. She gets caught up in trying to help him and realizes she does have a Talent. It's actually a well-woven tale and I was definitely reading to see what would happen next. And there is a romance going on which I really liked. Give me romance, give me an assertive guy, give me something actually happening versus her just wanting something to happen and I'm happy with the romance in a book. Because this book seems like it will become a sequel I think she didn't intentionally put more into the book and instead focuses on what witchly challenges the main character may have to face next. All in all, I did like this book. I actually think it would make a splendid movie! I definitely think high schoolers would like this book, it's probably okay for middle schoolers but there is some drinking and smoking that was a little weird to me so I wouldn't necessarily push it on my middle schoolers.

Overall: 4 out of 5

Miss Cannon said...

5- Strongly Recommended

This book was a joy to read and moved quickly. My students will be surprised by the turn of events and intrigued by the fantastical inventions made by the author. As an high school English teacher, I was excited to see several of the daily vocabulary words that I will be teaching my students this year. Despite being an exciting and enjoyable read it has literary substance. When recommending this book to students, I will keep in mind that it is a fantasy novel with a female protagonist, which will appeal mainly to the girls in my classes.

Alison Rotich, www.thatnovelidea.blogspot.com said...

Tamsin has spent most of her life trying to get away from her family. It isn't much fun when you are the only one with no "Talent". She just feels like such a loser. When Alistair Callum confuses Tamsin for her talented sister Rowena she doesn't correct him. She knows she should, but it feels good to finally be wanted by someone. Little does Tamsin know Alistair has something sinister in mind and she has played right into his hands. Not only that she has delivered everything he wants including people she loves.

Also in this story is a budding romance between Tamsin and her childhood friend Gabriel. He had just come back into her life and will be her counterpart for the adventure to discover herself, her talent, and her family's history.

I enjoyed this YA novel. I think it ends with the definite possibility of having a sequel which I wouldn't hesitate to read. I do think the storyline was similar to other fantasy/witch books I have read before. One part (which I can't really tell you without feeling like I give part of the book away) even reminds me of Twilight even though there aren't technically vampires. If you read this and have no idea what I am talking about just ask. I think the mix of family, romance, fantasy, and adventure would appeal to many teens. Especially with all of the interest in witches, vampires, zombies right now.

You can find more information on the book at www.onceawitch.com or www.carolynmaccullough.com. This is actually Ms. MacCullough's third book and the other two look very interesting as well. If you visit her website you can read an excerpt of each of them.

Thanks to The Picnic Basket for providing me with this ARC. They do request that I provide a number rating on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest rating. I would give this book a score of 3.75. It isn't a must have it now read, but I feel more than neutral about it. It had a nice fast pace and drew you into the story very quickly.

ddurance said...

Once a Witch is the story of a teenaged girl named Tamsin who belongs to a family of talented witches. At her birth, she was ordained to be one of the most powerful witches ever. Birthday after birthday goes by and no talent appears. She feels dejected and left out and doesn't join in on family/community gatherings. An opportunity arises one day while she is tending to her family's store to prove herself and she jumps at the chance. The rest of the book is all of the trouble she gets into as a result of this action. As other bloggers have said, the ending leaves the possibility for a sequel or for it to develop into a series.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I agree with prior reviews that this should probably be recommended for 9th grade and above due to some subject matter. It doesn't delve into any serious witchcraft, which should aleve some concerns about allowing young adults to read the book. The writing was smooth and flowed nicely for Colleen MacCullough's debut. She writes like a pro.

Rating 5/5
Deidre Durance
Alma/Bacon County Public Library
Alma, Georgia

Anonymous said...

I was excited to get Once a Witch, however, once I started reading, I was disappointed. At times the book became quite confusing and would cause me to go back to see what I missed. The biggest disappointment to me was the underage drinking, smoking (chain smoking), language, and the sexual innuendo. I thought maybe there would be a lesson to be learned from these poor behaviors,but I was wrong. Why do authors do this? Your novel can stand on its own without throwing these inappropriate issues into the mix. To me, these issues ruined the book for me. I give this book a 2 out of 5.

Cynthia said...

Once A Witch will appeal to adolescent readers with an interest in the supernatural. Among those readers, this book will be popular and readers will eagerly await the sequel. As a classroom teacher, I'd rate this as a Picnic Basket 3, neutral, good for a picnic but not worthy of an outing planned around it.

Tamsin's struggle to be accepted in her family regardless of her Talentless condition will resonate with young readers. Her adventures into Finding the object for which the professor is searching will keep all readers turning pages until the satisfying conclusion when Tamsin's dreams of being accepted and Talented are realized.

This book belongs on library and classroom shelves everywhere. Pick up a copy and enjoy the journey!

Cynthia Winfield
Middle School English

Anonymous said...

Once a Witch hooked me from the beginning. It discusses things like not fitting in and wanting to get away from a crazy family. A lot of YA kids feel this way, but in the end Tamsin realizes that she needs family and her family needs her.
The only complaints that I have it the under age drinking and smoking. I believe could have been left out and still have had a great story.

I recommend this book for YA, but I will not be putting it on my book shelf for my 6th graders to read. But will be telling the high school librarian that she needs to have it on her shelves.

Darcy said...

This was a VERY fun, quick read. Tamsin is a resourceful, engaging character who the author surrounds with oddball supporting characters. It is so refreshing to find a heroine who can think for, and rescue, herself!

Carolyn A. said...

Carolyn MacCullough expertly crafts main character Tamsin Greene as an atypical yet completely typical 17 year-old girl. Whether one's Talents are mundane or magical, every teen (and adult!) girl can relate to Tamsin's moods and manners.

Once a Witch will cast a spell on readers of any age. The story is pretty tame - no inappropriate language, sex or drug issues although there are scattered mentions of drinking. It delights by combining elements of light romance, mystery, and the eternal battle between good and evil. The ending is not overtly predictable yet satisfying nonetheless.

My only criticism is secondary character Agatha. Readers know she is important to Tamsin because Tamsin says so, but we aren't shown the strength of the relationship through their interactions. Additionally, what happens to Agatha once Allistair was "vanquished"?? Or is there a sequel that will answer my question?

Definitely a 5 out of 5... highly recommended

Carolyn A.
Young Adult Librarian
West Windsor, NJ

Seth said...

I found Once A Witch to be a satisfying novel that kept me thinking long after I had finished the book.
I felt that there were a few moments in the book where you thought the author would revisit later, but never did. The time travel sequences left a few open ended questions, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing!
I did not mind the use of Wiccan religion until the end and I feel like some parents may not approve of their child reading this book.
Overall, I would rate this book a 4 out of 5 because of the likeable characters and the intriguing and unique storyline. I think the content seems more geared towards high school aged, but the level of story feels more like an appropriate middle school aged book.
Overall, an easy read-that doesn't disappoint!

deltay said...

Interviewed Carolyn MacCullough (the author) at http://lucidconspiracy.blogspot.com/2009/11/interview-carolyn-maccullough.html

Figured I'd pop this on here as well:

If Carolyn MacCullough were one of the witches of her own creation, she would definitely be Talented - in the art of writing, that is. With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a captivating story about magic and witchcraft.

It's always super-exciting to see new spins on old concepts, but it's especially awesome to see one about witches, in light of the recent decade. MacCullough has definitely churned out some pretty original spins here. Tamsin's world is quite an enthralling place, and the fact that it's set right in our real world - and still remains, credible, provided the reader suspends skepticism - makes it that much more impressive.

A few lines of dialogue here and there aside, Tamsin's voice is definitely one of the highlights of the story. It's quirky, fun, vulnerable, strong, and dimensional, all at once. Which of course in turn speaks volumes about Tamsin as a character. Gabriel did feel a little meh or overdone here and there, but nevertheless interaction between the two was always a pleasure. Tamsin's [rather extended] family and "the stranger" were very well done as well, each with unique attributes that made them stand out and be memorable. Especially the antagonist - he was just overall very natural. Another really cool aspect of the characterization is that quite a few of the characters either change, grow, or develop over the course of the tale, and that's always amazing to see.

Once a Witch is a bit like a roller coaster. It starts off a little slow (in fact, personally, perhaps the Prologue could've been incorporated straight into the story and have it start with the first chapter instead), but then the story, the tension, the suspense, builds. And accelerates. And then it hurtles towards the climax. And let's just say the climax does not disappoint - all that build-up is well worth it. The "ending" sets itself up very nicely for a sequel, Always a Witch. Considering the interesting realm MacCullough's plotted and the concepts that (could) be dealt with in upcoming volume(s), it'll definitely be intriguing to see where this'll go.

With Once a Witch, MacCullough has crafted a spellbinding and enthralling tale.

Sandra Hartman, Wedgeworth Elementary Library said...

I found this book to be very well written, and the story immediately sucked me in – the teenage angst of being a family misfit, with a beautiful and talented older sister, and of course, the gorgeous hunk who is interested in her despite her perceived shortcomings. When the magic angle kicked in, I was even further engaged with the heroine and story. The plot, though not devastatingly original, would be interesting to most young people today, who seem to be very interested in the supernatural and paranormal. When I first started reading, I believed I could recommend the book for about ages 12 and up, but revised my opinion to believe it would be best for grades nine and up, as the heroine smokes, drinks, lies and disobeys, the antagonist drinks human blood, and even though they are white witches, the family sacrificed a human “for the greater good” in their past. It was exciting up to the last word, and set itself up for an eagerly awaited sequel. I would rate it a “4” for grades 9 and up.

Sandra Hartman
Wedgeworth Elementary Library

Wisteria Leigh, Booksworms Dinner said...

It would be too obvious a word choice to say I was spellbound by the story and characters of Carolyn MacCullough’s coming of age story. However, spellbound in an enchanting pleasant way accurately describes my reading of Once a Witch. It is a spicy blend of sorcery, mystery and just enough of a romantic attraction to keep sparks flying.

Tamsin Green is an odd seemingly Talentless misfit of a witch growing up in an extended family of witches who all have interesting powers. At birth, her grandmother foretold that Tamsin would have great power such as the family had never seen. So, as the years pass it is with much surprise that Tamsin exhibits no talent at all. With great disappointment Tamsin grows up lacking any signs of Talent. She lives in the shadows of her sister Rowena’s grace and glory. One day mistaken identity provides Tamsin the opportunity to prove her value. She accepts a challenge that takes her beyond her corporeal capabilities.

The story evolved around a question the author asked herself about the character Tamsin. What would it be like to be born into a magical family with no magical talent?
MacCullough wondered: “How would she cope in a family like that? What kind of person would that make her be? Her story and her thought process provide young writers with a unique perspective as she provides the scaffold for the story. Further fun can be found at her sites www.onceawitch.com and www.carolynmaccullough.com.

Once a Witch, inspires the reader to examine the unique talent, unique beauty that is often untapped, hidden or unrealized within ourselves. I would highly recommend this novel for middle and high school age students.
5-Strongly Recommend

Wisteria Leigh
Bookworms Dinner

Gabrielle Gambill said...

I loved this book and would love to see a follow up to Tasmin and Gabriel. The book had the right amount of tension and romance. I read the book in 2 days as I could not put it down. Tasmin is a strong female character not impressed by Gabriel's good looks and charm yet interested in him,and she prooves herself worthy of the challenge before her.

Ms. Howell said...

I loved this book & look forward to sharing with my middle school readers. There are great possibilities for the series. The characters were believable & complex enough to empathize with them. I enjoyed the urban setting- much different than many fantasy books.

Molly said...

Young teenage girls will love Tamsin’s story, as it is filled with what they are yearning for in a storyline: magic and romance as well as what they can relate to: sibling rivalry and the feeling of not fitting in. This book moved slowly for me, but after about the first 100 pages it did pick up. While not one of my favorites, I do think it will fly off the shelf at my library, based on current circulation trends. I give this 3.5 / 5 (average of my thoughts - 3; and what I feel the students will rate it – 4).

Anonymous said...

This book was amazing at really sucking you in and relating to that teenage girl in all of us! There are some things in the storyline the author doesn't go into detail about that leaves fans like me hoping for a second book. This book and the author are must haves on any readers top 10 list!