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A Dash of Belladonna

Jennifer Rackham


Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, New Zealand


Dearest friend,

Tomorrow I fly to New Zealand, a country where my future master will no doubt teach me the deepest secrets of brewing the most marvellous, miraculous and magical potions. Perhaps he will teach me how to make an invisibility potion–no, no. Too mundane. I’m sure he’ll teach me the sort of magic that paints the Milky-Way with the stars, the kind that swaps the sky with the still ocean, or the ones that make fireflies dance in winter. Okay, all of those are illegal and no one has been able to make such powerful potions for centuries, but a girl can dream, right?

Ma, of course, thinks I’m going to get kidnapped by some moustache-twirling villain and become embroiled in a magical struggle between the government and the evil doers. I can almost hear you rolling your eyes at this absurd turn of events.

If I had a say, I’d add a dash of danger and adventure in there. Why stop at getting kidnapped? Why not rebirth an ancient magic everyone thought was extinct? What if this discovery put everyone I loved and trusted in danger?

What would I do if I find myself in a series of such nonsensical events? Who knows? But I promise you I wouldn’t give up without a proper, magical fight.

Your Fantabulous Friend.



“A Dash of Belladonna by J. Rackham is an action-packed children’s fantasy. Written as letters to her best friend Snu, the conversation seemed to be rather one-sided considering there are never any replies, leaving this reader wondering if Snu was merely a figment of the heroine’s imagination. Then, I believe that there may be a point to Lottie’s friend’s seeming silence. Regardless, the story is fascinating, and the twists kept me on the very edge of my seat. I couldn’t find a good place to stop reading; I had to finish the book before I could fully relax! The book is clean, though there were a few blacked out areas of dialogue that were a touch questionable, but the reader would have to guess the poor language choices of the characters. I would recommend this book to young teens as the story is engaging and the message inspiring and essential.” 
— Alyssa Elmore - Reader's Favorite. 
“Here is a book full of magic and awe, humour and excitement, brought to us through Lottie’s exuberant prose. A zany book, full of narrative zest and high adventure.”
— Mike Johnson
Lottie Underwood is a 14-year-old who is determined to be the best student yet for Mikaere, an expert in plants and magic. She travels to New Zealand to study how to make magical potions, and many other wonderful things, but soon comes to the attention of Mr Dragicevich’s, who has been kidnapping children. She appears to be his next target, so Mikaere brings in Elsye, an old student, to help out. But Elsye seems more intent on playing practical jokes on Lottie, rather than helping her. And Lottie learns how to summon the deadly Belladonna, but doesn’t know how to control her Belladonna. Meanwhile, The Order becomes involved in what is later referred to as the incident known as ‘A Dash of Belladonna.’

This may all sound a little bonkers, but A Dash of Belladonna is a quirky and original book with lots to recommend it. Lottie is a great character, who is constantly trying to be independent, and getting into trouble. And the book is very humorous, written mostly as a series of letters, which captures Lottie’s enthusiasm and various states of mind as things fall apart around her. I also enjoyed the New Zealand references, and thought it was a nice touch that Lottie comes to New Zealand Aotearoa to have her adventures.
— Karen McKenzie - NZ Booklovers


When I questioned the reason behind her visit, she pulled out a long, ancient pipe, blew out hot pink smoke and answered, “Protection.”

“From what?” I inquired. The likely suspect was tilting the kitchen stool back and forth, smoking in the presence of a fourteen year old.

“Just precautions, Lottie,” Mikaere answered, throwing herbs up into her smoke. It danced in the air and rained down in sprinkles of fine sand. “If you’re going to smoke those things around the house, you have to wear these.” He magically whipped out his most recent purchase: strange slippers that had mop-like tendrils on the bottom.