Books & Literature

Book Review: Little Gem, by Anna Zobel

little gem cover

MIDDLE GRADE: An adorable and charming new children’s series about a little witch who gets a little lost and finds herself along the way.

A lovely story full of magic and lovable characters.

Anna Zobel is an illustrator, writer, and teacher who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been writing her own books since she was a child and she acknowledges that she is now inspired by the children she has met as a babysitter, childcare assistant, and teacher. Little Gem is Zobel’s first book as a writer and illustrator. It is also the first in a new series.

This is the story of Gem, a little witch attending Witchcraft School. One minute she is practicing her travelling spells and the next minute she finds herself in the strange town of Ellsworth Pining, 100 years in the future!

At Witchcraft School, Gem is the one everyone makes fun of, the one who keeps making mistakes. Now, she must decide whether or not to embrace her new circumstances and be the witch she has always wanted to be. She meets Henry, the resident housekeeping ghost, Renzo, who helps his postman dad in the holidays, and Mrs Silva, who runs the local café. These memorable characters are all thrilled that Gem has come to live in their village.  

Little Gem feels like a novel for adults due to its size, thickness and setting out. But this is deceptive as the story, themes, and language are perfect for children from about 6-11 years. Throughout the book, Zobel has added black-and-white lined illustrations which perfectly add to the text.

There are 21 chapters in all, and each chapter is short enough for the story to be read in many instalments. It is a child-centred mystery/detective story that would be appealing to any child. And dragons even get a mention!

The setting of Ellsworth Pining is an enchanted kind of village where the reader gets the impression anything could happen and nobody would blink an eye. The characters are all kind and welcoming, which adds to the magic. Little Gem is a feel-good story about friendship and finding your place in the world. A lovely first book in a series everyone will want to collect. 

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Penguin Random House Australia
Released: January 2021
RRP: $14.99

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