cover image WANDA'S FIRST DAY


Mark Sperring, , illus. by Kate and Liz Pope. . Scholastic/Chicken House, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-439-62773-3

Like the hero of Charlotte Middleton's Enrico Starts School (reviewed above), Wanda feels like a fish out of water on her first day of school. She's the only witch amid an entire school of candy-colored fairies with names like Tulip Fluffyglow and Willow Peachbreath. Wanda can't help zigging when everyone else zags, and when she tries to fit in by drinking a potion designed to give her light and airy wings like those of her classmates, she sprouts huge, bat-like appendages. The Pope sisters, in their debut, make Wanda a bold exclamation point in a pastel, dainty world: her witch ensemble is inky black, her hair a passel of scraggly black lightning bolts. Unfortunately, Sperring's (Find-a-Saurus ) text tends to be workmanlike and literal ("But everyone looked so different from Wanda. And Wanda looked so different from everyone else"), and the resolution feels facile. Although Wanda is never ostracized like Enrico (who is shut out of playground fun and exploited in the lunchroom), she doesn't connect in any meaningful way with any of the fairies, and there's no assurance that Miss Dewdrop will grow to appreciate the witch's unique talents. Middleton grants Enrico real psychological growth and believable sources of solace (his little brother and a new best friend). Here youngsters are expected to take the happy ending at face value. Ages 5-up. (July)