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Published: 7 Jul 2022

Paperback / softback, 288 pages

Recommended for age 9+

By Cat Gray

Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd

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RRP £6.99
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Welcome to Yowling - a secretive seaside village where magic is just one step away... Max has spent years thinking he is cursed, because whenever he touches anything electrical it explodes.

But then he is sent to Yowling and discovers he is a Spellstopper, someone with the rare ability to drain dangerous build-ups of magic and fix misbehaving enchanted items. When Max's Grandad is kidnapped by the cruel Keeper of the malfunctioning magical castle that floats in the bay, only Max's gift can save him. Together with his new friend Kit, Max throws himself into an adventure filled with villainous owls, psychic ice cream and man-eating goldfish.

But can he really pull off the biggest spellstop ever?

Tagged magic

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Reviewed by Stephen Connor

Max is a young man with an unusual problem, and his mum is at her wit’s end. His propensity to accidentally destroy electrical equipment by merely touching it is something he cannot control, and the rubber gloves aren’t doing much to help matters. At the beginning of his summer holidays, his mother exasperated, he is packed off to stay with grandad, known as Bram, in order to receive guidance.

Bram reveals he has suffered from the same problem as Max, and his home in the town of Yowling reflects his anti-electricity stance. It is a world removed from Max’s day-to-day life, all dusty antiques, primitive homeware and horrible, horrible stew. He also reveals he is a spellstopper – capable of fixing magical items – and believes that Max can do the same. Slowly, Max learns here: Bram gently encourages him to try and breathe, to relax, to accept his difficulty and harness it.

But he struggles.

One of the reasons he struggles is the presence of the excellently-written villain, Leandra. She is the current keeper of the town’s castle, can turn into an owl at will, and rules by misdeed, setting fire to things she doesn’t like and threatening to do the same to anyone who dares challenge her. She is a dictator, in truth, and when her castle’s magic starts to fail, her wicked ways lead her to demand the help of Bram, the only known spellstopper known. Or at least, the only spellstopper known, so far.

Inevitably, Leandra learns of Max’s potential spellstopping abilities, and works to persuade/force either Bram, Max or both into fixing the castle for her. Along the way, we meet a spectacular cast of magical folk, from Pearl the sand witch, to Tom, a man with the ability to sink into sand at will.

Cat Gray moves the story along at just the right pace, always pushing us closer to Max’s fate, which largely depends on whether or not he truly believes in himself. Themes of friendship and family are also present, but most compelling of all is the very real sense of magic that is here.

If you have been bewitched by Eerie-on-Sea, enchanted by Howl and his moving castle, or charmed by the Widdershins sisters, then this is the perfect read for you.

I currently teach Y5/6 in South Derbyshire, leading KS2 in a rural school. My obsession with children's literature is only just beginning, I fear.

When not reading, I will be running, or walking around the Lake District.