The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster (Bk. 1)/The Mystery of the Magic Stones (Bk. 2)

(Polly and Buster). 288p. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781610679268; 9781610679275..
Gr 2-4–Rippin tackles friendship and race with “Polly and Buster,” but these first two titles are ultimately fumbles. Polly Progrett is a young witch with an unnamed learning disability who loves her best friend Buster, the highly emotive and empathetic monster next door. Miss Spinnaker (Polly’s very own Miss Honey) coaches Polly and Buster through turbulent times as an age old monsters vs. witches feud comes to a head. Polly discovers she is literally The Chosen One - a Silver Witch that only rises when there is desperate need, and will, naturally, save the day with her unyielding best friend by her side. If this is a reader’s first encounter with a “Chose One” narrative, it may be somewhat engaging, but most will find Polly’s plot lackluster. More concerning, however, is the questionable treatment of race. The witches are distinctly white while the monsters represent the Black community. Monsters reference sitting in the back of the bus and their unfair treatment after a mining accident killed many monsters and a few witches. The monsters are frequently depicted more brutish than the witches, and in one particularly cringe-inducing scene, a non-verbal monster bites a witch. While in the end monsters and witches do work together and recognize one another’s strengths, the books read at best as generic and at worst tone-deaf.
VERDICT There are much better discussions of race and friendship available to spark conversation and reflection. Stick with Alex Gino’s “You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.!” and skip these.

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