My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Binny Bewitched returns to the Cornwallis household and sees the family in disarray. Binny herself has misplaced something that wasn’t hers to start off with. James and his new best friend are engrossed in their own adventures, whilst Clem is acting particularly oddly. Coupled with that, the builder keeps coming round to do one last job on the house, whilst their next door neighbour is, pretty definitely, a witch….
Sometimes it’s hard to rate McKay’s work as you rate it within a certain context of wonder that is formed from your experience of her other books. This, the third in the Binny series, feels like an ending to that series and there will never be a part of me that chooses for McKay’s stories to end. She’s such a gifted, genuine, lovely storyteller that I get greedy and hungry and desperate for them to continue. I love what she does. Binny Bewitched then gets five stars, because it is perfect, and yet it’s not because I feel like this is it, but then it is perfect because it is here and it reads like soup and quilts and snow on a school morning.
What makes Binny Bewitched so wonderful is the way it hangs on a cusp of growth. There aren’t many writers who can transition well from one age group to another within the same text; from boyhood to manhood, from girlhood to womanhood. It’s a complicated moment and it’s one that, I wonder now, I haven’t described particularly well. Maybe it’s better to pull it back to the idea of moments; moments when you look at somebody and see a friend, but then, one day, you look at them and see something different. Something new and sharp and wonderful. Something else. Or when you’re walking down the road, and you see something that you’ve seen a thousand days, but then, suddenly, it means something totally different. Shifts. Changes.
Adèle Geras does this well. and Susie Day is, I suspect, another author who gets it. Who understands that moment when the world makes sense and then suddenly reforms to make another sort of sense. A different sort of sense. And that’s what Binny Bewitched captures, so wonderfully, that difference between the self you are and the self you will be. Binny is a wonderful character. She’s stubborn, tempestuous, funny, brave, passionate, confused, perfect. She’s everything, and this book is lovely and I hope this isn’t the end for this series but if it is, what a way to go out. And why we haven’t given McKay the Freedom of Children’s Literature yet, I do not know.