Review of Willa the Wisp

Willa the Wisp [The Fabled Stables]
by Jonathan Auxier; illus. by Olga Demidova
Primary    Amulet/Abrams    96 pp.    g
10/20    978-1-4197-4269-9    $12.99

“At the top of the world sat an island. And at the heart of that island lived a boy named Auggie.” So begins this early chapter book full of magical creatures, puzzling situations, and playful nonsense. Auggie’s job on the island is to take care of all the one-of-a-kind creatures at the Fabled Stables, such as the Long-Beaked Curmudgeon and the Yawning Abyss. Auggie has a unique rapport with animals as well as a Horn of Plenty that produces the appropriate food for each creature on command. He’s helped by a “stick-in-the-mud” named Fen, who begrudgingly mucks out the stalls. One day, the stables magically expand to make room for a new creature: a wisp. Unfortunately, the wisp needs to be rescued before it can move in, and adventures ensue. Plentiful illustrations with small bursts of text on the pages make for a high-energy story full of twists and turns. Many mysteries around the nature of the island and its inhabitants remain unsolved, including the motivations of Professor Cake, the island’s owner. “He was very old and very clever. He collected things that were one-of-a-kind. Things like Auggie.” Great for reading aloud, this lively first entry in a projected series offers a curious setting and an imaginative cast of characters.

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach
Julie Roach

Julie Roach, chair of the 2020 Caldecott Committee, manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

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