Once in a while, without any particular plan, I come across two books which seem to go strangely well with each other, despite being different genres or about completely different characters. So it is with Samantha Mather and Queen.
A Boy Named Queen is a short middle grade story. Queen arrives in Evelyn’s fifth grade class with a sense of style that is completely out of the ordinary – brogues, a pink t-shirt, occasionally sparkly clothing. He’s immediately the target of bullies because of his name and clothing choices, but Evelyn becomes his friend anyway. She’s not one to take many chances, but there is something about Queen she wants to learn more about. Evelyn’s transformation makes this book a great discussion starter for kids.
How to Hang a Witch is a teen fantasy, but at its heart is another kind of bullying – the kind where everyone stands around and lets someone be attacked while doing nothing to stop it. Samantha Mather is the descendant of someone tied to the Salem Witch Trials, and when she and her stepmother move back to Salem following her dad’s health crisis, Samantha is instantly thrown into the middle of 300-year old curses and intrigues. You’re not quite sure until the very end who the good guys are – is it the ghost, the crazy neighbor, the mean girls, someone else? And Cotton Mather in a teen novel? Who’d have seen that one coming?
Both are worth a look, and if you have time, you might even read them one after the other and see if the connections strike you the same way. Standing up to bullies is tough, whether you’re an average fifth grader or a savvy New York teenager transplanted to a new community. Having allies can change the whole dynamic.
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy