The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Book One: Spelling Trouble
This is the second graphic novel format Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee I read, but, unlike The Great American Dust Bowl, this book is completely fictional. At first I thought I would have a hard time getting into the format, but once I started reading, I found that I completed the book very quickly. It was entertaining, it was cute, and it was just plain fun.
Summary: Salem Hyde is a young witch who is just learning to control her powers. Neither of her parents are witches, although her aunt is. In an effort to help her learn to control her powers, they enlist the help of an animal companion, Mr. Percival J. Whamsford, III. Salem is disappointed to have an unoriginal cat as her companion (she wanted a unicorn), but she soon finds that she has bigger problems to worry about. Salem inadvertently signs herself up for the school spelling bee. She thinks it will be no problem – after all, she’s a witch and knows plenty of spells. But spelling and casting spells are not the same thing, and Salem is going to need some serious help to get out of the trouble she’s caused.
What I Liked: Salem is an immediately loveable and relatable character. She’s cute, she’s confident, and she’s adorably mistaken about her magical abilities. I immediately loved the attitude that she brought to the story – she believes in herself and her magical powers even when she miserably fails Whammy’s tests. Plus, the plays on words throughout the book are hilarious – simple enough that young audiences can appreciate them, but with enough depth that adults find them enjoyable as well. Cammuso even goes so far as to include literary references like Moby Dick into the story, which makes it more than just a simple tale of a girl and her cat. Overall, Salem struggles with a very real problem: learning to be the best version of who she is. Even if we aren’t all witches, we can certainly relate to her dilemma.
What I Didn’t Like: Although the illustrations are cute and add so much detail to the story, I have to admit that I didn’t like that the only color used throughout the book was green. I would have loved to see Salem’s vibrant personality illustrated with a few more colors. Overall, though, that’s not a large enough complaint to discourage me from recommending the book, nor do I anticipate it being a negative factor for most readers.
Overall Feeling: This book is a complete hit! It has something that will appeal to just about any reader – a cute story, an adorable protagonist, magic, humor, and real-life lessons. It is obvious from Book One that Salem and Whammy will have more adventures in the future, and the reader ends the first story wanting to immediately pick up the next installment. Cammuso does a brilliant job of addressing a lesson that we all must learn at some point – how to be the best versions of ourselves, in spite of our flaws. This story is sure to find a place in the hearts of most readers, and I would recommend it without hesitation for anyone looking for a great read.