Some weeks back, I got a lovely surprise in the mail: a folded and gathered (f&g) advanced copy the book “Boo-la-la Witch Spa” (set for release on August 18) all the way from Studio Roxas in New York City.
“Boo-la-la Witch Spa” is written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Filipino illustrator Isabel Roxas (we know her as Pepper!), who very kindly sent me this f&g. In “Boo-la-la Witch Spa, a harried young witch decides to get “the works” at a popular spa for witches.
Told in delightful rhyme, the story walks us through our protagonist’s day at the Fab-BOO Witch Spa, where she starts off with some bat-whisker tea (as she lounges in a fake yeti fur robe) and proceeds to get various other treatments done — including, among other things, a “Broom Bristle Facial,” a “Serpent Spit Spritzer,” a a “Hag Stone Massage” — in a full day of ultimate witch relaxation.
Samantha Berger’s text is upbeat and humorous, with a musical quality that’s just crying out to be read out loud (my favorite line: “Then it’s off for a soak in a cauldron of mold, from four hundred fungi, four hundred years old.” I just love the imagination that went into this, like the author thought of all the fun things to put in a witch spa and just ran with it, no holds barred, and we get loads of inventive ideas that kids (of all ages) will surely love: an “all-you-can-eat, help-yourself candy bar,” a scalp massage done by spiders, a sauna powered by dragon-breath, witch-y magazines Craftsmopolitan and VooDoo-y Fair, the list goes on!
The illustrations only double the fun. I’ve been a fan of Pepper’s work for years, but this book has fast became a favorite. The illustrations splendidly build upon the whimsical world set out by the author. Each spread is a veritable showcase — there’s just so much to see! The text doesn’t elaborate on the character except for the fact that she is in dire need of a spa day, but from the illustrations we glean that her name is Leeza, her familiar is a gray cat, and she has a sweet tooth, and we see her transform from weary to wonderful throughout the course of the story.
Through the illustrations, we also see just how fab-BOO this witch spa is: it reminds me of the bath house in Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away,” only this seems a lot more fun (and you don’t have to ransom your soul! Ha!): it is run by gnomes in pointy hats (fez!), the treatments are administered by professional creatures (you know, serpents moisturize you with their spit, a troll serves as the masseuse, and a warlock and werewolf team do your hair), they have the latest in witch spa technology (Broom-o-matic, anyone?) and the spa gets the most interesting clients (including a big yellow duck like the Ootori Sama in “Spirited Away”). Sign me up for this witch spa, pronto!
I really love the palette and how cleverly it steers clear of the obvious witch-y black, choosing instead a harmonious medley of oranges and greens, with accents in plum, teal, red and yellow and quite a few patterns, too. The look really echoes the whimsicality of the book, and matches the tone of the text perfectly.
This is definitely a picture book that will be cherished and read many times over for the years to come.
Boo-la-la Witch Spa, advanced copy, 5/5 stars
P.S. I hope the local bookstores order this book!
P.P.S. Thank you, Pepper for thinking of me!