Cover image for Jessica Haggerthwaite: witch dispatcher
Jessica Haggerthwaite: witch dispatcher
Barnes, Emma.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Walker & Company, 2001.
Physical Description:
151 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
When her mother decides to start a business as a professional witch, eleven-year-old Jessica sets out to sabotage the project.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.8 3.0 54960.
Added Author:
Format :


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X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Jessica Haggerthwaite is a girl with a cool, logical mind who has always planned to be a world famous scientist one day. She and her brother, Nat, are not impressed when their mother decides to set up a a professional witch! The kids at school, and in fact the entire town, find it amusing, but how will she ever win the Nobel Prize with her mother embarrassing the family like this? Mother's spells don't always go exactly as planned either, which only adds insult to injury. So Jessica sets herself up as "Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher", intent on thwarting her mother at every turn and saving her family's reputation, no matter what her mother wants!

A funny and completely refreshing first novel that shows just how difficult it is for families to get along, all the time.

Author Notes

Emma Barnes is a sparkling new talent in children's literature. This is her first novel. Ms. Barnes lives in Leeds, England.

Tim Archbold is a highly successful illustrator for children. Mr. Archbold lives in Kelso, Roxburghshire, Scotland.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 3-6. A delightfully witchy story that has its feet fully planted in reality. Jessica Haggerthwaite is mad at her mother. Mrs. Haggerthwaite is determined to turn her interest in witchcraft into a business, especially now that Mr. H. has been laid off and money is tight. Jessica and her brother are horrified at the prospect of being known as the witch's children, and things get worse when arguments over Mrs. H.'s new business lead Jessica's parents to separate. Jessica decides she will come up with a way to "dispatch" her mother's new career, but everything she tries just makes the situation worse. Barnes does very good work here. Not only does she pull off telling the story from several viewpoints but she also manages some very clever plot twists. Children may be disappointed at first to discover that the magic here is more New Age than mystical, but the witty dialogue and British ambience will draw them in, and the solid plotting will keep them going. --Ilene Cooper

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-Unlucky at conventional job hunting, Nat and Jessica's mother decides to go professional with her passionate interest in witchcraft. Jessica, a budding scientist, is horrified, certain that once the news gets out, she will lose her few school chums and all credibility. The children's father, a laid-off gardener, overreacts to this announcement and leaves the family. Nat is particularly distraught by his father's departure because Dad was the primary cook and his mother's culinary concoctions are rather stomach churning. Jessica is a determined strategist who uses the scientific method to win the class science fair and an unlikely new friend. This British import is bound to be popular with readers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Archbold's squiggly line drawings are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's cheerful illustrations.-Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One "Guess what!" demanded Mrs. Haggerthwaite, bursting through the kitchen door. And before anybody had a chance to respond, she added, "I have the most amazing news!"     The reaction was not all it might have been. Nat, who was tickling Liverwort, hardly looked up. Jessica shot her mother a forbidding glance over the top of the large volume that was propped up in front of her (it was, even more forbiddingly, called Astrophysics Made Simple ). Liverwort just burped.     But Mrs. Haggerthwaite was not easily put off.     "I'll give you three guesses!"     "You've bought another toad?" Nat suggested. And he made soothing noises at Liverwort, the Haggerthwaite's toad, in case he should feel threatened by this.     "You've actually found a job?" said Jessica. She looked at her mother and then, meaningfully, at the bills that were stuck to the fridge. Several of them had Last Demand for Payment written across the top in large, unfriendly letters. Then she sniffed, to show just how unlikely she thought this was.     "That's it!"     Jessica gasped. Nat stopped tickling Liverwort and gazed at his mother. Even Liverwort gave an enquiring croak.     "I don't believe you," said Jessica. "Who would give you a job? Anyway, I thought you didn't want one. You always say you need all your time for your witching." Not that Jessica approved of this. She thought her mother spent altogether too much time on her witchcraft, and not nearly enough time looking for a sensible job. But that was not the point.     "All right." Mrs. Haggerthwaite came clean. "I haven't exactly got a job. But it's just as good. Actually, it's even better!" She paused for effect. "I'm going to be a professional witch! Mellandra Haggerthwaite, Professional Witch! Doesn't that sound good?"     There was a long, long silence.     Nat looked stunned. In fact, he looked as if somebody had just crept up and whacked him over the head with Jessica's Junior Science Encyclopedia . As for Jessica, she had to clutch the table to steady herself. She was thinking, It's finally happened. Mom really has gone crazy. But out loud she said, "Mom, you can't have got a job as a professional witch. There are no professional witches."     "Exactly!" said Mrs. Haggerthwaite. "That's the beauty of it. I'll be the first one! Why, I shouldn't be surprised if we don't end up millionaires!" She glanced at their dazed faces and exclaimed, "Oh, for goodness sake! Let me get a cup of tea and I'll explain."     According to Mrs. Haggerthwaite, it had all started in the library. She was looking at the job section of the local paper at the time and was in a very bad mood--for while, as Jessica said, she definitely needed a job, it was also true that she didn't really want one. Looking at the advertisements in the Bellstone Gazette , she thought crossly how few jobs there were for somebody with experience in witchcraft, and she couldn't see anything that would fit in with her busy schedule of herb gathering and charm making. She also wondered why there were jobs for cooks and manicurists and dental assistants, but absolutely nothing in the magical line at all.     "And that's when it came to me," said Mrs. Haggerthwaite. "Where do you go if you need magical services? A good-luck charm or a love potion? Or if your house is haunted by your great-aunt's ghost? There isn't anywhere to go. Because there just aren't any professional witches out there. Until now. Because that's where I come in!"     "Mom!" Jessica groaned. "You can't be a professional witch! Everyone will think you're mad! And what about me and Nat? I mean, what will they say at school?"     "They'll be green with envy!"     "No, they won't! They'll kill themselves laughing. Why, we'll be the biggest joke in Bellstone!"     Mrs. Haggerthwaite had not thought of this. In fact, it had never even occurred to her that there might be something unusual in having a mother who was a witch.     "Jessica! You're not ... you're not suggesting that I embarrass you?"     She actually looked upset. And suddenly Jessica found that she was unable to say what she had been going to say: that of course Mrs. Haggerthwaite embarrassed her, she was probably the most embarrassing mother in the universe .     "She doesn't mean it like that, Mom," said Nat, although both he and Jessica knew very well that she did.     "No," said Jessica quickly. "But what about me? You know I'm planning to be a world-famous scientist. That's hard enough, especially if you're a girl. But how many world-famous scientists have you heard of with witches for mothers?"     "Lots," said Mrs Haggerthwaite. Before Jessica could ask her to name one, she added quickly, "Anyway, magic and science aren't as different as you think."     "Of course they are!"     "No, they're not. What do you think really turns the light on when you press the switch?"     "Electricity," chorused Jessica and Nat.     "And what is electricity, may I ask?"     Nat hesitated. But Jessica said confidently, "Electrons, traveling down a wire."     "And what, may I ask, are electrons?"     "They're bits of atoms. And atoms are very small particles that everything is made from."     "Show me one, then," said Mrs. Haggerthwaite.     "What? But I can't. They're invisible!"     "Invisible? Sounds like magic to me," said Mrs. Haggerthwaite triumphantly.     Jessica scowled. "They're not magic, they're science! Anyway, that's not the point. You can't set up as a witch. Everyone'll just think you're mad! And I bet Dad says the same."     "I'm sure he'll think it's an excellent idea," said Mrs. Haggerthwaite. "Just like I did when he set up his own gardening business."     "Well, I think it's a rotten idea!" Jessica shouted, "And I bet Dad does too. What's more I'm going to get him and find out!" And she leaped up and ran for the door. Nat caught up with her as she was running out the gate.     "Stop!" he yelled. "Where are you going, anyway?"     Jessica paused for a moment. "Just to Aunt Kate's. Dad said he was doing some jobs for her this afternoon." Aunt Kate was Mr. Haggerthwaite's sister, and when business was slow she often asked him to look after her vegetable patch or the plants in her greenhouse. Business had often been slow lately.     "There's no point in telling Dad," said Nat. "He'll find out when he gets home." He hesitated. "Anyway, they'll only have another fight."     "Well, at least it'll be a fight about something sensible," said Jessica. She added, "For once."     Nat sighed. It was true that their parents often had fights, and they could be about the stupidest things. For example, once they had had a fight about whether eating carrots gave you dandruff. Another time they had a falling out over whether the capital of Japan was Rangoon or Singapore. (Jessica had settled that one: "It's Tokyo, of course!") But lately they had been fighting more often and always about the same subject: Money and Why There Was Not Enough of It. Nat was getting tired of these arguments.     He looked at Jessica, whose brown eyes were glinting in a way he knew too well. He was sure she would be a world-famous scientist one day: She was stubborn enough to succeed at anything. But for the moment he wished she would not always be in such a rush.     "Can't you just wait and see what happens?" he asked.     But he was talking to empty air. Excerpted from Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher by Emma Barnes. Copyright © 2001 by Emma Barnes. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.