The Daring of Della Dupree by Natasha Lowe
Series: Book four of the Poppy Pendle series
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of pages: 272
Published: July 21st, 2020
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review
Opening Lines: "Della Dupree, Pay attention, Miss Barlow snapped. This is the history of magic class, and you've been staring inside your pocket for the last forty-five minutes."
Della Dupree had always disliked her name, why did her parents have to name her after the most famous witch and founder of the prestigious Ruthersfield Academy school for witchcraft? It's a name that despite her best attempt's she's been struggling to live up to. Then one day, while Della is working on a school project, she discovers a reference to The Book of Spells, an important book that is said to contain the personal conversations of Witch Dupree and hold valuable information about the founder of the Academy. Unable to contain her excitement, Della races off to the library, hoping to find any details she can use for her presentation. However, the book of spells only confirms that little is known about Ruthersfield's founders life. Not easily dissuaded, Della then borrows an amulet from the fortune telling lab, using it to travel back in time to 1223, hoping that speaking with Witch Dupree in person will give her all the information she needs. Unfortunately, upon her arrival in Potts Bottom, Della's amulet is stolen and now she risks being stuck in the year 1223.
The Daring of Della Dupree is the fourth book of the Poppy Pendle series, which can be read as a stand alone. Other titles in the series include The Power of Poppy Pendle, The Courage of Cat Campbell, and The Marvelous Magic of Miss Mable. The books have been described as "Matilda meets The Penderwicks." From what I can tell from the books summaries, The Poppy Pendle series seems to carry the important messages of friendship, bravery, compassion and believing in oneself. All empowering ideals.
The story begins with Della in present day at Ruthersfield Academy preparing for an upcoming school project where she's supposed to present on what it was like for Witch Della living in the Middle Ages. Della Dupree is a sort of timid and insecure young witch. She hasn't developed confidence in her magical abilities and feels like she'll never compare to Witch Dupree. She's also a bystander while one of her classmates, Katrin is being bullied by Melanie, a notoriously mean witch. Despite liking Katrin, and empathizing with how she must feel being teased on a daily basis, Della lacks the strength to stand up to Melanie.
Then Della makes the decision to travel back in time to talk with her namesake, and lands in Potts Bottom during a time where witches were feared, even persecuted for having magic. A stark contrast with how things are during present day. Della also meets Mary, a young untrained witch. Mary and several of the young girls from Potts Bottom are deathly afraid of their family finding out about their magic. Being untrained, their magic is wonky, out of control and becoming harder and harder for them to conceal. Della provides some much needed strategies to keep their magic under control so they wont be carted off to Scrubs Prison.
Della is a very kind hearted girl, who loves animals, often taking them under her wing and nursing them back to health. She's disturbed by the girls of Potts Bottom's plight and is the one who ultimately changes the villagers mind about witches not being bad or evil. The story was an interesting look at the historical perceptions of witches in the middle ages from the vantage point of a young witch from present day. I absolutely loved the ending with how Della was able to find her voice and ultimately challenges Melanie. Included at the end of the book are recipes for Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins and Pottage, with instructions for making a Pomander Ball. With Halloween quickly approaching, give this to someone who enjoys stories with witches, empowering messaging or a unique historical perspective of witches from the middle ages.
**A huge thank you to Natasha Lowe for my review copy. I'm looking forward to baking those Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins soon!!**