________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 24. . . .February 21, 2014


Cauldron Spells (Frogspell #2).

C. J. Busby. Illustrated by David Wyatt.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2012.
190 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-2478-2.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Meredith Harrison-Lim.

*** /4



By the end of the week, both Max and Olivia were Most Improved Student of the Week, and Sir Bertram had taken to walking around the castle with a slight swagger, twirling his huge moustache, and telling anyone who would listen about his son’s and his, er, hmm, nephew’s successes.

It was Ferocious, as usual, who brought them back to earth.

“Impressed as I am by your excellent progress in your lessons … you do realize that we have been here two weeks already and we haven’t got the faintest idea what Morgana’s up to?”

They were lounging around in their room, and Max and Olivia had been swapping stories about just how brilliant they were. At Ferocious’s words, they both looked slightly put out, but then Max nodded.

“You’re right. We haven’t even tried … And it’s much more important than lessons, really …” He fingered the swift that had been sitting all this time in his belt pouch and thought of Merlin. He felt hot all over realizing that he’d not even tried to do any spying on Morgana. He thought of her pale, icy face and those hard blue eyes and shivered. Was it because he was too scared of her? But Merlin was relying on him. He couldn’t let him down.


Cauldron Spells is the second book in the “Frogspell” series by C.J. Busby, concerning the adventures of 11-year-old Max Pendragon, his 9-year-old sister Olivia, and their pets, the rat Ferocious and the dragon Aldophus. In this book, Max and Olivia journey to the Castle Gore where the King’s sister, Lady Morgana, lives in order to continue to train as a wizard and a squire, respectively. At the same time, Merlin has tasked Max to keep his eye out on Lady Morgana as he suspects that she continues to conspire to take over the kingdom from King Arthur. However, once Max arrives, his main concern becomes how to produce a proper spell as his cauldron has been badly damaged due to Aldophus’s clumsiness. Thankfully, Aldophus’s Great-Aunt Lady Wilhelmina resides close by, and she gives Max a cauldron from her large collection in exchange for freeing her from her blocked-in cave. While the cauldron appears to be worn and generally unimpressive, Max’s magical abilities instantly improve with its use. Little does he know that this cauldron is actually very powerful and that it is desperately sought after by Morgana as part of her current plan to trick King Arthur. With the assistance of the Bard Caradoc, Olivia and Max are able to piece together Lady Morgana’s plan, but, unfortunately, Olivia is sent to another world as bait for King Arthur in the process. With the help of Merlin, King Arthur, Sir Bertram, Adolphus, and Ferocious, Max must use his magical knowledge and strength to ensure that Olivia and the rest of their party are able to return home unscathed.

     Like its predecessor, Frogspell, Cauldron Spells is a lighthearted, enjoyable read aimed at a young audience. Max and Olivia continue to work together to determine the plans of Lady Morgana and her minions while occasionally squabbling due to their conflicting personal goals and interests. In this book, Aldophus shines, being the cause of a great deal of the siblings’ successes and challenges. Additionally, the greater involvement of Max and Olivia’s father, Sir Bertram, is a welcome addition, as is that of Great-Aunt Lady Wilhelmina and the Bard Caradoc. The plot is well-developed, with a number of interesting challenges and conflicts that lead to the story’s climax. Unfortunately, it is the climax of the novel, the rescue of Olivia from the land of Annwn, which is the least developed aspect of the book. While the plot logically leads to the journey into the Otherworld, once the rescue team arrives, the challenges seem too quickly resolved, and it feels as if the characters confront no real difficulty.

     This fantasy is written in third-person, and there are small black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter by David Wyatt, depicting an event described in the chapter. The events, humour, and characters would be very entertaining to young children who may not yet be able to read the entirety of the novel independently, thereby providing a great option for parents who want to co-read with their children. While the book only briefly recaps the events of the first book in the series, it is possible for a reader to begin the series at Cauldron Spells without too much confusion. The audience will feel satisfaction with the villains once again being outwitted and will eagerly anticipate the future challenges that Max and Olivia will encounter in coming books.


Meredith Harrison-Lim is a MLIS graduate working for the Federal Government in the National Capital Region.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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