cover image Mysterious Miss Slade

Mysterious Miss Slade

Dick King-Smith. Crown Publishers, $15.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-517-80045-4

""The first thing you noticed was the smell,"" begins King-Smith (Babe: The Gallant Pig), expertly hooking his readers and reeling them in. Miss Slade lives alone in Blackberry Bottom with six dogs, a donkey named Moke, various goats, chickens, and catsDbut no human companionship, because the townsfolk think the eccentric old woman is a witch. All that changes when a new family moves into a cottage nearby and young Jim and Patsy wander down the lane for a visit. City children, they are enchanted by their eccentric neighbor's lifestyle (she lives in a caravan, her fence is cobbled together from various odds and ends) and her furred and feathered entourage. As their lives and Miss Slade's begin to intertwine, secrets about her past begin to emerge, including an aristocratic upbringing and a buried treasure. Shot through with themes of redemption and compassion, the story carries King-Smith's dependable dose of adventure, humor and warm, believable characters (of both the two-legged and four-legged variety), all delivered in a fluid, eminently readable prose style. Short chapters put the book within the reach of emerging readers, who will also enjoy Kronheimer's sprightly line drawings. Ages 8-10. (June)