ElsBeth's Magical Adventures for Middle Grade Readers
Cape Cod Witch Series
Book I Reviews
"I don't usually do this, but ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure got such rave reviews from my two nephews and my sister that I felt like I had to pass it on. What makes my nephews' recommendations so remarkable is that they're sort of reluctant readers. One in particular devours comics but mostly "reads" the illustrations. "Star Wars" books are their favorites.
And hey, anytime two boys jump up and down (literally) and implore me to read something, I listen.
The other thing that made me pay special attention to their glowing reviews is that to the naked eye, this book would seem to be more attractive to girls. But really, a strong female protagonist and an exciting but not too scary story involving pirates and buried treasure, what's not to love? My nephew said all of the kids in his third grade class love this book, bar none.
Apparently the first of a series, my sister said they read it aloud together as a family and she thought it was fabulous, too. Really fabulous, and they all can't wait for the next one. Of course, I ran out and got a copy, and although it was published by a seemingly small local company, I found it.
It's a very fast and fun read. ElsBeth is a sweet character and I think she and her classmates are the reason my nephews and his friends liked it so much. It's like "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" crossed with Sarah Plain and Tall -- sort of. Earthy and homemade feeling, the writing and story read like local folklore but with contemporary characters. I can see why it's a hit with younger readers and I, too, liked it a lot. The action occurs a little late, but it's so short it still works.
Reading EsBeth and the Pirate's Treasure made me wonder -- what exactly made this work for both the girls and boys in my nephew's posse? Is it the fact that ElsBeth's class share the spotlight and together are the main characters? At what age do boys and girls truly part ways in the book department? At what age do they stop sharing interest in the same titles? I wish there were more titles that crossed gender lines. We talk a lot about finding books that boys will like because they are traditionally harder readers to please, but what about books that boys and girls can enjoy together? Maybe books that simply allow girls and boys to share the stage is the answer.”
-- Ali Decker
Ypulse Book Editor
(subsequently with Publisher’s Weekly)
"The littlest witch of Cape Cod is ElsBeth Amelia Thistle. She's in second grade and already hates it. Her teacher is Ms. Finch, a mean unfriendly person. She's forever giving ElsBeth extra work assignments. Then there's Robert Hillman-Jones. He is a nasty boy always trying to get ElsBeth into trouble. But she ignores these troubles as best as she can.
Halloween is coming up and ElsBeth is excited. But all the boys seem to be planning something. It might have something to do with the lost treasure of Billy Bowlegs. In any case she needs to be prepared. She may be the youngest witch on Cape Cod, but that's not going to stop her from having an adventure. …
Also I want to mention how much I loved the artwork inside the book. You can see some on the cover, but inside there is more."
(Review by my daughter)
-- J. Kaye Oldner
"ElsBeth is a young witch with very
ordinary concerns, like that annoying
boy in class, Robert. If she's not being
taunted by Robert, her teacher, Ms.
Finch, is determined to make her days
unbearable. As Halloween approaches
and the class prepares for holiday
festivities, ElsBeth will be presented
with a challenge above and beyond
typical childhood trials.
Because of the excitement surrounding
the upcoming Halloween pageant,
no one seems to notice when all of the boys in the class mysteriously disappear. By the time their absence is realized, they've been gone far too long to be up to typical little boy mischief. As everyone in town heads out to search for the missing children, ElsBeth leads the girls in her class on a magical rescue mission.
The boys have gotten in over their heads in a quest for hidden pirate treasure. With the help of some enchanted friends, ElsBeth discovers her classmates' whereabouts in a hidden cave. Even more surprises await when she finds the boys are not alone in the cave.
Fairies, witches, toads, pirates, and Indians make up the character-driven cast of ElsBeth and the Pirate's Treasure by J Bean Palmer. The cast is part of an interesting cross between magic and reality. ElsBeth and her grandmother are both modern witches with roots in Earth magic and herbal medicine. They've also got that Sabrina the Teenage Witch flair with talking familiars and ancient spells.
ElsBeth sets an example for her classmates with her reverence of nature, encouraging them to consider how their actions affect creatures of the wild. This is an admirable quality to include in children's literature. Its influence likely stems from Palmer's career in Environmental Science.
ElsBeth could be a very influential figure in children's literature. She's a strong witch with an enduring spirit who could tackle any number of problems. I can see many other magical characters being introduced in her tutelage. All the makings are present for an exciting children's book series."
"When I first started this story, I was
instantaneously reminded of my
favourite childhood witch, Sabrina.
ElsBeth too is a young witch, learning
new magical lessons every day from
her dear old grandmother, Hannah.
We follow ElsBeth as she tackles
school and bullies and are introduced
to the other lively characters around
her in her home in Cape Cod.
In this book, Halloween is around the
corner, a mysterious time for the folks
living in Cape Cod. There is an old tale about a pirate’s treasure still hidden away in its final resting place. And, it can only be accessed this Halloween day. Some sneaky boys from ElsBeth’s class have gotten together to explore this interesting place and of course, landed themselves in a very sticky situation. It’s up to ElsBeth and a few of her special friends to come to their rescue!
ElsBeth is a great little character, curious and smart. I look forward to reading about her new upcoming adventures as she grows into a proper witch. Children are sure to like her and be able to relate to her.
This book is just the right length for Middle Graders with some lovely coloured illustrations to break up the chapters and ensure that no reader will ever get bored reading this story. I loved the use of such vibrant colours as they gave more life to the whole story and helps capture the imagination! Even I had a wonderful time reading this book, even though I am way too adult to actually qualify for this genre. I am sure both children and parents alike will enjoy this read, no matter at the bedside or cuddled up together by the fire."
-- Life’s Simple Pleasures
"ElsBeth is precocious and well liked by her peers, a born leader when the thick of the action sets in. Each of her classmates has a face and a name and a personality to match. Cape Cod is brought to life on the page through the physical descriptions as well as the inclusion of real life history.
Hannah Goodspell, ElsBeth’s grandmother, is an intriguing character. Palmer tells us, through Hannah’s recounting, she is from the Old Country and a witch of renown. She has a rich history only barely touched upon in this story, apparently told in another book. There is an unstated, and perhaps unintentional, mystery concerning why Hannah is raising her granddaughter. The whereabouts of ElsBeth’s parents is never disclosed or explored. I was also somewhat confused on Hannah’s exact age since the story is set in modern time yet Hannah came to the New World with her husband in the time of the Salem Witch Trials.
Despite these vagaries the story not adversely affected, and is steeped in magic and history. This is a tale of courage and commitment to community and friends against adversity, even the magical kind. The addition of artwork depicting the various characters or scenes adds a quaint visual note to appreciate. I give ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure 5 out of 5 stars."
-- Andrea Hutsch
"J Bean Palmer’s ElsBeth and the Pirate’s
Treasure revolves around ElsBeth, a second
grader who happens to be a witch with
A LOT of promise. She is the granddaughter
of Hannah Prudence Goodspell, a very
well-respected witch. ElsBeth learns to adjust
and adapt to everyday life: the second grade
(WE ALL HAVE BEEN THERE:
GUARANTEED). A dream in particular that
young ElsBeth had will begin to shape
ElsBeth’s life, giving birth to a series of events
that’ll test her mettle and legitimacy in the
realm of being worthy of the title “Witch.”
I LOVE the illustrations in this story. I like seeing a picture or two in a story from time to time; keeps my attention. The illustration of ElsBeth’s home reminds me of the Halliwell Manor from the show “Charmed”.
Story wise, ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure has a Harry Potter feel; it is fine with me! I can envision myself sitting in the classroom with the battle-axe Ms. Finch, can see the lush and full garden that Ms. Hannah Prudence Goodspell is tending, Sylvanas the cat, and Bartholomew the bullfrog. The story has promise and potential to gain a large following, and I LOVE THAT about this book."
-- Andrew Boyd
The Review Board
"J. Bean Palmer skillfully weaves an enchanting story filled with many excellent characters, not merely limited to the youngest witch, ElsBeth, but a prince turned into a frog, and local Indians who help when needs arise. Not only does the author add a touch of Cape Cod history and flair throughout the book, which will delight locals, visitors, and even those who have never experienced this quaint seaside area, but also a few environmental issues are discussed in such a way to both entertain and create an important statement.
ElsBeth and the Pirate's Treasure is also filled with colorful illustrations by Melanie Therrien, which are generously laced throughout, enhancing significant parts of the story. Readers both young and old will undoubtedly enjoy ElsBeth's adventure, and will look forward to hearing continued tales of the youngest witch on Cape Cod."
"The book is a well-written, fast-paced, and entertaining tale of mystery and adventure, with well-developed and likable characters. It blends everyday situations at school and home with magic, witches, fairies, Halloween, legends, mystery, and pirate treasure. The colorful illustrations add much to the appeal of the book and may encourage even reluctant readers to pick it up.
-- Sandwich Enterprise
"Your book has not been on the shelf at all this summer, it's always out and being enjoyed!!!"
- -- Terry Colon
"There's something for everyone in this charming chapter book - witches, fairies and other enchantments, plus ferocious pirate ghosts . . . Graced with colorful watercolors evoking an olde New England, this children's romp is a sure bet for young readers."
-- Vineyard Gazette
Book II Reviews
"J. Bean Palmer has once again captured
young readers' attention with this next
edition of the youngest witch in Cape Cod.
This story is filled to the brim with
adventure, plenty of vivid and likable
characters (even the cranky teacher,
Ms. Finch) and topped with history and
important environmental lessons for the
young reader. ElsBeth serves as a lovely
example of a tenacious and passionate
girl, who is able to navigate and overcome some fairly scary adversities to positively help those in need in the end.
Finally, illustrator Melanie Therrien has also returned to include her vibrant pictures that add a perfect touch and emphasis to this Cape Cod Witch Series. And if that's not enough to capture a reader's attention, there is real history information and recipes tucked in the back of the book. The treasures in this tale will undoubtedly capture young readers' heart, as they wonder what will happen next, and should definitely not be passed over."
-- Odyssey Reviews
"ElsBeth Amelia Thistle, the youngest witch on Cape Cod, is excited that her second-grade class is going to Boston. But her grandmother, Hannah Goodspell, doesn't share her enthusiasm. In fact, she doesn't like the idea at all. Witches don't seem to do well in Boston -they may even go insane.
So when confusion over permission slips allows her the opportunity to join her class for the trip, ElsBeth can't let it slip by. But she doesn't realize she won't be alone, as other magical beings join her to keep her safe.
And oh, what adventure awaits her in Boston! A kidnapping, a pirate (or privateer, as he chooses to be called), lots of ghosts, and a wild ride on a "borrowed" sailboat.
ElsBeth is a sweet girl, who really wants to do the right thing, and her classmates provide additional charm to this fun Cape Cod story. I especially liked Sylvanas the cat. Lots of action, intrigue, and a nice tidy ending will provide an enjoyable read for kids. I highly recommend ElsBeth and the Privateer."
-- Alice Berger
"I am so impressed with the imaginative story telling style in this charming book. The characters are whimsical and the story is engaging. I appreciate the care that the author has taken to develop an imaginative cast and setting that is full of real life lessons and adventures. I have delayed giving this book to my grandchildren because I read it to check it out and I was hooked! A lovely tale that I highly recommend."
-- Storyteller Ink
"ElsBeth and the Privateer is the next book in the Cape Cod Series. What a fun, quick read. J Bean Palmer brings excitement, lovable
characters, a good story line and even
incorporates math into the picture with this
book. For any one who has kids that want
something to read then you have to pick up
all of the books in the Cape Cod series.
Don't feel embarrassment if you end up
falling in love with ElsBeth like I did. I am
going to recommend these books to all of
my reader friends."
-- Cheryl's Booknook
"The littlest Cape Cod witch, ElsBeth Amelia Thistle, is on yet another adventure. Her class is going on a field trip to Boston. As happy as ElsBeth is, her grandmother is reluctant for her to go. She said there are many ghosts and other magical beings in Boston and many times they can make witches go insane. Her grandmother thought ElsBeth shouldn't go.
The next day, when Ms. Finch the teacher asked for the permission slips, ElsBeth didn't have hers signed. But thanks to the mischievous family cat and the North Wind for causing all the slips to fly out the window, she was able to go.
What the littlest Cape Cod witch never expected was an adventure with a famous privateer (someone who has permission to steal ships and treasure) to rescue an Arabian prince and one of her best friends from villains, and most of all to learn secrets and lessons that are just lying around to be found if you look.
I mentioned this with the first book's review. The reading level says ages 9-12, but I think younger kids who are advanced in reading would appreciate this series. I was an early reader and had trouble finding interesting books to challenge me. This would have been perfect.
Like the first book the artwork inside the book in ElsBeth and the Privateer is really neat!"
-- J. Kaye Oldner
(Review by Nona, daughter)
"I'm back with Book II! Okay, so ElsBeth is the youngest witch, in second grade, and is about to go on a field trip! Remember those days? Field trips meant a day of fun, no school, no work, just play! So ElsBeth is excited to go to Boston. She just loves adventure, but her grandma is not very happy about it. Rumor has it that all witches go crazy when they go into Boston. Spirits live there. I'm guessing it's from way back when the Witch Trials were happening in Salem, Mass. So anyway, what kid does what they are told all the time? ElsBeth loves her grandma, but is still going to Boston.
So off in Boston, adventure hit's ElsBeth pretty quickly. She meets a Pirate who agrees to help her. You see, one of the kids got kidnapped and ElsBeth is off to save the kid. ElsBeth has great friends, they are always helping her on these adventures! I'm loving these books, and that ElsBeth is this kid witch and it just seems so normal. Should give kids a large imagination to play with!
You even learn cool things while reading! So an extra bonus for younger readers and maybe some refreshers to us older readers. I'll leave giving this book 5 stars!"
Book III Reviews
"ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties
centers around almost-ten-year-old ElsBeth
Amelia Thistle (the youngest witch on
Cape Cod), and her journey to integrate her
different worlds of science and magic, and is
an engaging fantasy recommended for
advanced elementary through middle school
A gorgeous, colorful painting of ElsBeth and
a moonlit castle across the water invites
young readers to enter a plot that represents
Book III of The Cape Cod Witch Series,
but which stands well on its own for
More than twenty illustrations by Melanie
Therrien throughout the saga provide visual embellishment to the story, which opens with the spooky encounter of a castle ghost commanding the youngest of the Thistle clan across the sea to Scotland.
Present-time Cape Cod is the next scene, where the young witch senses an evil danger about to descend on and change her happy world: “Like her future had become unsettled. Like some danger had just sailed up and dropped anchor in her future. Hardly anyone knew she was a witch -- this was just something that wasn’t discussed. A good, nine-year-old witch, granted, but a witch nonetheless. She knew her perceptions were sometimes a little different, and they didn’t ask her permission to come in on her. And she definitely didn’t always understand them.”
As ElsBeth finds herself on a long journey, summoned by ancestral ghosts who need her help, she encounters magic and different kinds of allies in unexpected places along the way. Far from home, she discovers some of her old friends have been conscripted to accompany her -- and slowly her two disparate worlds blend.
The very fact that ElsBeth and her friends have been lifted from everything familiar and transported to someplace outside of all their experiences lends to new perceptions -- and this, again, is one of the ongoing strengths of the story: “She was a little worried about Veronica, who was always aware how pretty she was, and didn’t seem altogether pleased she might not be the prettiest girl around right now. But that seemed a small worry compared to what they’d been through getting here.”
ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties isn't a one-dimensional fantasy adventure: readers are treated to a host of sensations and experiences wedded to emotion and reflection; and that's one of its strongest features, keeping it “real” and inviting: “She wanted to ask the insightful bat if he thought it was OK for her to go on the trip today. But there wasn’t time, and he’d probably just say, “Think for yourself.” He was always encouraging ElsBeth to think things through on her own. And as much as she wanted to be good at that, she knew thinking about things wasn’t her strongest point. She preferred action. She liked to just start ... and then keep going.”
Too many fantasies (especially for young adults) focus more on the fantasy setting and adventure than on personal interactions and revelations. What sets apart better writings is an attention to psychological depth, which is more than evident in the passages of reflection and understanding throughout ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties.
The other books in the series have not been seen by this reviewer; but if they're anything like this one, they deserve all the acclaim they have already received elsewhere.
Suffice it to say that ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties is about as fine a middle school fantasy as you could get: vivid, packed with ghosts and mystery, and yet tempered with an attention to interpersonal depth that is rare and inviting."
-- D. Donovan
Midwest Book Review
"The third installment of a Middle Grade series filled with magic, mystery, danger, and friendship. It takes us to the upper east coast of the USA and across the seas as we seek to protect a home never known…and a little something more.
What at first appears to be merely another adventure with a varied group of kids, furry animals, and some magic thrown in for good measure…which by the way, would have certainly been good enough…turns into a cross seas adventure with a few lessons to learn, a hidden message of conservation and overall ecological responsibility.
Who’d have thought, right? Yet, there it is, ready for readers young and old to capture, embrace, and take “the long look” themselves at how our actions and choices shape the world around us in a much BIGGER way.
On the story level, we’re faced with topics such as growing up, uncovering a secret family history, “enemies” we couldn’t fathom having had let alone have them currently seeking us out, challenging friendships, and forgiveness.
There is a bit of a mystery to solve as well as a plethora of magical creatures to meet plus a bad guy worth serving up on a platter…with his little henchmen. Her well meaning friends provide many emotional highs and lows throughout the story. My favorite would have to be Johnny Twofeathers and our leading lady, Ms. ElsBeth Thistle, on the human side of things, both for their general character as well as their good intentions. On the side of familiars, Sylvanas wins paws down…gotta love that crazy cat!
In conclusion…a trip to the Cape well worth the travel time with a cast of characters you’ll be glad to have met. Recommended read for girls and boys alike from the Middle Grade set and forward."
-- GMR, Blogger
"It was nice to see that this
book (as well as the other
books) in the Cape Cod Witch
series can in fact stand-alone.
I really love the way this cover
was done. Images very crisp
and colorful without being
overwhelming with content.
Balance of text and spacing
was wonderful to the eyes.
Out of all the covers in the
series, this is the one I adored
All of the illustrations made me smile. I could not pinpoint one that was my absolute favorite because I appreciated them all. I only wished there were a few more of them as it got to the middle and ending of the book...
Robert Hillman-Jones and Johnny Twofeathers in particular really came into their own in the Call of the Castle Ghosties. ElsBeth seemed more of a team supporter than the sole hero. Although there may be some who frown on the shared spotlight, I believe it reinforces the fact that they truly are friends of ElsBeth and have the best intentions at heart.
There were quite a bit of chances to learn in this book. Some of the issues mentioned involved polar bears, stripping the land of its natural resources, and lack of encouragement to think for one’s self in the education system. Since the characters are at about the ten/eleven year old mark, it’s not too unorthodox to provide some type of awareness about these types of things."
-- No Labels, The Review Board
"I loved reading this book. It is a great adventure filled with mystery and folklore. Very beautifully written capturing so much magic... This book has been well researched and has a believable feel to it (in the fantasy way). As a reader it is easy to feel that you are part of the adventure.
This series has the potential to keep running for a long time to come, and I will be looking forward to ElsBeth's future adventures."
-- Miss Samantha Grayson
"The third story in the
Cape Cod Witch series is
a great continuation of
the series. We take off for
Scotland with ElsBeth
and the group in a
some new magical
creatures and a group of
ancient ghosts determined to protect, there are many lessons to be learned. A recurring theme through the books is environmentalism, and taking care of what we have now to save it for others in the future. Some of the ideas and concepts are for kids a little older than the first two books in the series. There is a nice development as you read through them."
"Book III in the Cape Cod Witch series brings us back together with ElsBeth Amelia Thistle, now a nine-year-old witch from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
It is two years after The Pirate’s Treasure takes place, and ElsBeth and her cast of friends/classmates has grown and matured in the time since.
The story opens by introducing us to a ghost named Durst who is intent on protecting his home and lands from a mysterious adversary referred to as “Gorgeous”. He sends out a call on the Four Winds, a spell searching out that one special person who would come and save his lands – the youngest Thistle.
This adventure begins in earnest when Robert Hillman-Jones, ElsBeth’s antithesis and antagonist, decides he is going to take his uncle’s yacht for a sail. The girls happen upon this secret plan and wrangle their way into it. Mid-sail strange, magical things start to happen. A storm of unbelievable strength and power swoops down on the children and soon they are swept out to open sea, caught in a wind current that propels them through some storytelling and across the ocean to Scotland."
-- Andrea Houtsch
"I want to very highly recommend ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties. I found it humorous and entertaining. The story caught my interest quickly due to the character development. There is a sense of adventure, responsibility and fun in this book. One of my favorite things was the way the kids in the story worked together to understand and solve a problem, which helped others. I love stories that have a positive outcome due to the inventiveness and courage of kids! And this book is rich in this quality. Read it and spread the word. This one is really enjoyable!!!"
-- Storyteller Ink