Author(s): John Bemelmans Marciano
Benevento, a town in southern Italy, is famous for its witches, who are not broomstick-riding hags but a variety of supernatural beings. Among them are the Janara, who fly about on stormy nights performing mischief; the Clopper, an old witch who chases children through the streets of town; and the Manalonga, who hide in wells and under bridges and try to drag children down. Benevento is an ancient town; a Roman theatre is at the centre, a castle fortress overlooks the town and the river, and farmland surrounds it. The stories in the Witches of Benevento series take place in the 1820s and feature five children, two of whom are twins. In each of the four books in the series, a different child will be the main character. Five cousins - Primo, Emilio, Rosa, Maria Beppina, and Sergio - share adventures and narrow escapes, and discover astonishing secrets as they outwit the witches in each exciting story.
Mischief Season introduces a charming band of children living in 19th century Italy. Twins Rosa and Emilio awake to the mischief of the Janara (witches by night, villagers by day). Rosa, who is always hungry, has a stomach ache - she’s eaten a whole wheel of cheese during the night - and she has an itchy nose - that her brother claims is caused by Janara sticking straw up her nostrils continuously tickling her while she sleeps. To cover up for her theft of cheese, Rosa naturally blames the Janara. But on this morning her father slams his fist on the table saying, "No more! No more Janara did it!" Rosa has cried wolf once too often and now she is in trouble with Father. As the weeks continue, there are not enough eggs for market, the Janara mess up the barn, spill the wine and throw the tiles from the roof. Emilio and Rosa are determined to stop the Janara and their mischief. Their friend Primo suggests a salt trap but this just makes the Janara angry. So they visit the fortune-teller, Zia Pia, crossing her hand with a silver coin, to get some advice. And the advice? A spell which includes very specific amounts of garlic and chillies along with a blade of grass rubbed on a frog’s back and a goose feather to make a paste, and instructions on how and where to bury this paste while chanting the spell. The result isn’t good for Rosa, who once again finds herself blamed for the mischief that ensues. A night excursion by the village children to the special tree that the Janara flock to doesn’t bring the right result either, only a petty quarrel between Primo and Rosa who both always think they are right! Emilio, always the thinker, is sure there is an answer to the Janara problem, but where will he find it? The first book hints at more stories to come, so you can join Emilio, Rosa, Primo, Sergio and Maria Beppina to solve more mysteries and have adventures in their village of Benevento. Add to this a Witchonary, a map, historical notes about Benevento and about how children lived in 1820s Italy, and a child reader couldn’t wish for anything more. This is a charming and delightfully illustrated chapter book series for younger children, combining folklore, history and enjoyable mischief-making.
...And in case you are curious about the reality of the Witches of Benevento, click here.
Welcome to Benevento, an ancient town famous for its witches.
Praise for The Witches of Benevento series: Blackall s delicate, lovely artwork is bewitching and Marciano s text is, as the title implies, loaded with molto mischief. I can't wait to read what the Janara have in store for the Benevento kids next. Lane Smith, author ofReturn to Augie Hobble Not your run-of-the-mill chapter book. What we have here is a fresh, charming tale about an Italian village afflicted with witches and the brave, quarrelsome band of friends who try to make their acquaintance. A frisky, ingenious introduction to an old world and a new series. Annie Barrows, author of the Ivy and Bean series There is a mystery in Benevento a mystery of witches and spirits and magic. Will you go back in time to this charming town and solve the mystery? And if you do, will you tell me what the solution is? Really! Please tell me! But watch out for the spirits. They are mischievous indeed... The Witches is a charming, intelligent tale, illustrated beautifully and evocatively. Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm "Marciano builds a charming environment of magic and trickery using a pleasantly old-fashioned tone to tell gently scary stories of witches and spirits. Blackall s beautiful two-color illustrations, in shades of gray and blue, adorn almost every page and contribute significantly to the antique look of the whole package. This refreshingly unusual tale will appeal to kids in love with fairy tales." Booklist "Loosely based on folklore and decorated with Blackall's two-color drawings of elfin figures in country dress on nearly every page, the comical tale kicks off a projected series set in the picturesque town." Kirkus Reviews"Magical spells and amusing characters with distinctive personalities, coupled with an engaging story with a twist, will captivate readers and leave them clamoring for future stories centered on the other cousins." School Library Journal "An old-world atmosphere and prickly sibling rivalry make the book read like a classic fairy tale, while an undercurrent of mystery paves the way for future books." Publishers Weekly "There is a lot of character development packed into this trim novel. Blackall s warm, charming illustrations accent the text." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books"
Writer and artist John Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans. John has continued his grandfather's legacy of the Madeline books with Madeline and the Old House in Paris, Madeline at the White House, and Madeline and the Cats of Rome. He is the author of Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline s Creator, and of The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. John lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Andromache, and their daughter, Galatea.
Sophie Blackall has illustrated more than thirty books, including Finding Winnie, for which she won the Caldecott medal, andthe New York Times Best Illustrated books Big Red Lollipop and The Baby Tree, which she also wrote. Born in Australia, Sophie lives in Brooklyn with her children Olive and Edward. John and Sophie share studio space in Brooklyn, which makes it easy for them to collaborate."