The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel by Natasha Lowe is a middle grade novel. It is the third book in the Power of Poppy Pendle series. While I have not read any of the previous books, I think that each must stand well on its own, because I was not even aware that is was part of a series until I went to Goodreads to get a cover image for this review.
The morning Nora Ratcliff finds a baby in the flowerpot on her front steps her life changes forever. She had always wanted a child, but after her husband passed away, Nora never thought she would have one, but her flowerpot child was a miracle and she decided to name her Mabel. As Mabel grew up, she showed a distinct talent for magic. When Mabel is accepted to the prestigious witch school, Ruthersfield Academy, she excels at the magic curriculum but is constantly in trouble for experimenting and inventing her own potions. One day she is asked to write a paper on her magical roots and discovers the truth about her birth after a mean classmate blurts out what everyone seems to know except Mabel. Mabel is shocked but the revelation does explain a lot. In rebellion, Mabel changes her name to Magnolia and tries to understand why she was left in the flowerpot and who her birth family might be. Will Mabel find the answers she’s looking for—or will she discover that families are people who love each other and look after each other and that’s most important of all.
The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel is not quite what I expected. Based on the cover (I know) and he blurb I was expecting a fun, magical romp with some emotional conflict about Mabel’s origins. I did get all of the elements, but not in the way I was prepared for. Mabel certainly has some adventures, but fun and some a little more dangerous. She has a curious and adventurous spirit, as in the case of any inquisitive soul knows, will get you into all kinds of mischief. However, the story also dove into how Nora felt, gender roles, empathy, bullying, and so much more. I loved Mabel’s desire for more, and for trying new things. I found her character, and the majority of other characters, to be more complex than one might think at first glance. Once Mabel’s adventures really started at the school I was deeply involved in the book. However, I feel like it took some time to build up steam. Although, I did like that the author offered readers information on what happened after the story to most of the characters. That was an unexpected bit of closure that I often wish for.
The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mabel left me with mixed feelings. I really enjoyed parts of the book and the themes in it, however, when it was over it felt a little lacking to me. Although, I think this is because of my expectations of constant madcap adventures rather than a blend that included more serious ideas than I was prepared for.