Thirteen Witches: The Memory Thief (Book 1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Thirteen Witches: The Memory Thief (Book 1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson. Aladdin, 2021. 9781481480215

Format: ARC (pub date 2/21)

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? The prologue of the story tells of a witch stealing a child at birth, setting the scene for a dark story of grief and longing. Eleven year old Rosie is then introduced. She lives with her mother, whom the reader assumes is the mother of the stolen newborn. Rosie takes care of herself because her mother is in a perpetual semi-lucid state and barely acknowledges Rosie’s existence. But Rosie has her best friend Germ and the stories where her imagination creates the world she wants. When Rosie burns all of her stories after an argument with Germ, her world changes. Suddenly, she can see all of the ghosts of people and animals that float around her house, and she learns the reason why her mother is the way she is: her mother was a witch hunter who was cursed by a terrible witch called the Memory Witch. All of her mother’s memories were taken in order to prevent her from hunting witches. She learns this from some of the ghosts who are kind to her, in particular a boy named Ebb. And she learns that in order to regain her mother, she must use the “Witch Hunter’s Guide to the Universe,” written by her mother before the curse, and hunt down the fearsome Memory Witch herself.

The author has created a world that is entirely believable, and her beautiful descriptions of the way the ghostly creatures haunt the world, unseen, make reading of Rosie’s adventures more than just a ghost story. Although she feels the burden of freeing her mother’s spirit is hers alone, Rosie finds that the talents of her imagination give meaning and purpose to her quest. She is shy but brave, and readers will see in her echoes of Harry Potter. In fact, Rosie names her trusty flashlight “Lumos” and it has an important part in the story. Germ is a good and loyal friend with wisdom beyond her years, and is well fleshed out, as are several of the ghosts who support her quest. This is a wonderful story, albeit with serious issues of grief and parental neglect, and with a girl protagonist many will root for. It is the first in a planned trilogy.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  For ages 9-13, especially Harry Potter fans who love fantasy with girl protagonists.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Definitely near the top

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: February 21, 2021

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