Alyssa and the Spell Garden by Alexandra Sheppard

Alyssa and the Spell Garden – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Friendship, family, magic, modernisation, secrets.
Children’s book title: Alyssa and the Spell Garden.
Children’s author: Alexandra Sheppard.
Children’s illustrator: Bex Glendining.
Genre: Children’s fiction, fantasy.
Published by: Faber and Faber.
ISBN: 9780571377428.
Recommended for children aged: 9-12 year-olds.
First published: Paperback April 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: Discussing reasons people keep secrets and what happens when they are revealed unintentionally.

Alyssa and the Spell Garden by Alexandra Sheppard

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Our review:

Eleven-year-old Alyssa isn’t very happy. All her plans for the summer have been changed at the last minute and instead of spending time with her friends she’s not even going to be at home! Her parents have been arguing and her dad has moved out for a while. That means no adult at home over the next few weeks and so Alyssa has to stay with an aunt she’s never met before.

Great Aunt Jasmine runs a tea shop as well as a summer school and it isn’t long before Alyssa finds herself involved in a magical community which has protected people’s homes and businesses for many years. Things are changing though, and shops which have been open for decades are disappearing and the friendly high street is no longer recognisable. Can Alyssa and her new friends work out what is happening and why before the lives of her newfound family are changed forever?

Our verdict:

This is a good read which covers a lot of issues which face people every day. Alyssa’s parents think they are doing the right thing by not telling her that they are getting divorced. But other members of her family do know and so gradually she learns more than she wants to. At the same time, Alyssa has to stay with family who are strangers to her and integrate into their very different way of life.

The discovery of Alyssa’s magical heritage and powers is cleverly used to tie all the different parts of this story together. The changes to family, community, and open spaces are common experiences; and although magic is used here there are other solutions included which could help keep neighbourhoods vibrant, as well as embrace a progressive future.

Teaching points and book club discussion ideas:

  • There could be cross-curricular possibilities if the subjects of urbanisation or gentrification are being covered.
  • Discussing the importance of community, whether that is where you live, where you go to school, or where you spend your leisure time, and how easily that can change.
  • With the review copy we received, there was a bookmark included that can be planted so wild flowers grow. This is a lovely idea to use in the classroom or at home.
  • Alexandra Sheppard’s website includes school visit information.
  • Author’s Twitter.

Many thanks to Faber Books for the review copy.

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If you like Alyssa and the Spell Garden by Alexandra Sheppard you might also like: our reviews of Peregrine Quinn and the Cosmic Realm by Ash Bond, The Memory Thieves by Dhonielle Clayton, A Head Full of Magic by Sarah Morrell, The Thief of Farrowfell by Ravena Guron and Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker.

Browse our list of books for Year 6 pupils

About Tracy Wood

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I am a voracious reader and used to be a learning support assistant in a senior school for eight years before leaving to home school my now adult daughter. I have ten grandchildren who I love reading to and spending time with. Reviews by Tracy Wood