DR. MEL'S MESSAGE - From my novels to my other projects, no telling what you will read. This is the only place you will get to read about how I developed a screenplay into a novel and what is the driving force. I will talk about many things from films to books to acting to producing. It really will depend on where my mind takes me. I hope you will join me on this journey.
A humorous story about a kooky, eccentric, off-the-wall grandmother named Martha May McKenzie, who appears to be a simple coffee shop owner at first but is, in fact . . . A WITCH!
Now, Martha is no ordinary witch. Her coffee shop, known as The Witches Brew, is where she hides in plain sight, helping grandmothers with their naughty little grandchildren. She is wacky, weird, and completely unconventional, even by witches' standards.
As a grandmother witch, Martha wants to use her magic to try and lift the spirits of her two grandchildren (Trinity and Lucas), who have drifted from each other after they experienced their dad's tragic and sudden loss. However, they have no idea that their grandmother is a witch, to begin with! So, Martha will be revealing her secret to them for the first time ever . . . but was it a secret?
Jamie (Martha's daughter) has always known that her mom identifies as a witch but has never truly believed her to be one. She begs her mom not to fill her kids' heads with the same nonsense she filled hers with, but Martha doesn't listen. Using her magic, she goes ahead with her "perfect plan."
Unfortunately, things don't go as Martha hoped. On a single Saturday morning, everything quickly spirals wildly out of control, unlocking magical events that take them back through time on the unwanted adventure of a lifetime. Together, they must try and find a way back home, that is, if they can survive what lies ahead, as well as each other.
Martha May McKenzie is a good witch who uses her magic to help others, including parents
who want to encourage their children to eat a healthier diet (rather than sweets). She has wild
hair in which she keeps a number of items, an ugly but endearing goat friend named Bubbles, and a magical assistant named Sparkly Martha snorted out her nose. Sadly, her daughter Jamie refuses to believe her mother is a witch. However, after losing their father in
the line of duty, Jamie brings her children to Martha, where a wish made after a bite of
magical cake brings the whole family back to medieval times. They must then work together to
return home, learning more about each other in the process.
While having its own unique style, this children’s book is very reminiscent of the works of Roald
Dahl. The prose flows along with the whimsical rhythms of a fairy tale being related, and any
number of fantastic things can and do happen. Much heart is put into Martha
May McKenzie reconnecting with her daughter Jamie and forming a bond with her
grandchildren, Lucas and Trinity, alongside a great deal of light-hearted humor that makes for a
heartwarming read for young and old alike. It sets things up for other books that continue the
adventures of this enchanting family. In fact, readers may find themselves succumbing to a
strong temptation to seek them out right after turning the final page in this first intriguing book. US Review
The story opens as Billy, a young boy, enters Martha’s shop, the Witch’s Brew. “It wasn’t anything like the other shops in the Square; it was more like an eerie hut, one that looked centuries old.” Billy doesn’t like to eat his greens, so Martha turns him into a frog until he promises “to take it easy on the sweets and eat more vegetables.” Then Martha, “traveling by bristle,” magically transports herself home to prepare for the arrival of her daughter, Jamie, and her grandchildren, Lucas and Trinity. Martha conjures “Sparkly Martha” to clean her house. Sparkly Martha feels underappreciated and “especially hated…being blown out of that old witch’s nose like a useless booger.” Since her daughter’s visit is special, Martha wants “to brighten their spirits using her magic and [has] something extra special planned.” Martha makes a slice of magic cake, and when Lucas eats it all (rather than just the one bite necessary for a wish), the magical adventure begins as the family travels back to medieval times. Middle-grade readers will delight in the mild potty humor as they meet Bubbles, the strange goat who gives Jamie a “yellow rain” shower. Starr’s use of imagery will stimulate imaginations with descriptions of such things as Lucas’ smile (“his wonderfully cheerful smile made his freckled cheeks glow like two perfect pink moons”) and cake ingredients (“ginger root grown in a graveyard and plucked under a full moon at exactly midnight”). An evil duke, a council of witches, a dragon, and other whimsical elements will captivate readers as Martha and her family figure out how to return to Texas and the present day. Starr’s creative black-and-white illustrations support the text and add interest, and a cliffhanger ending will have readers anxiously waiting for the next book. A fantasy tale full of quirky characters and magical antics sure to amuse young readers.Kirkus
In his zany and appealing debut, Starr delivers a fantasy-filled middle grade tale centered on
eccentric witch Martha May McKenzie, who conjures up a magic-filled cake to cheer up her
grieving grandchildren after their police officer father’s death. One bite is enough to trigger the
magic—but Martha’s magic goes awry when she leaves her grandson Lucas in the room with the
cake—and he eats an entire slice. Suddenly, Martha, her daughter Jamie, granddaughter Trinity, and grandson Lucas are hurled backward to the Middle Ages, when Martha’s pet goat
was a beautiful witch named Jezebel.
Imaginative world-building transports readers to a playful world and time when kings ruled the
land, bows, and arrows were the weapons of the day, yet windows have glass, and kids still call each other “nerds.” The prevailing sense of fun encourages readers just to go with it, and soon
enough, the stakes get higher: when an evil duke sees Trinity’s cell phone, he proclaims it to be a
black magic box and vows to kill the entire family. Hijinks ensue, with the plucky family eluding
the duke’s murderous efforts. Starr takes the opportunity to impart positive lessons to young
readers, including the importance of apologizing when appropriate, healthy eating, and following
Starr excels in creating descriptive prose (“This old lady had an outrageously wild mountain of
untamed hair, the likes of which belonged in a zoo, with never-ending locks of beautiful golden-brown curls that fell to the floor”) and appropriate middle-grade gross-out elements like a goat
urinating on Jamie (“she stuffed her wet, smelly, disgusting socks into her shoes. They made a
sloshy, squishy-squashing squidgy sound”), burp clouds, and a magical fairy who makes her
home in Martha’s nostril. Starr keeps the excitement going until the very last page—although the
story ends on a cliffhanger. Still, middle-grade fantasy fans will relish Starr’s well-plotted and
hilariously imagined tale. Booklife Review
Growing up, I had a BIG imagination! I enjoyed telling stories and drawing pictures, and I absolutely loved to make people laugh. That often got me into trouble because I couldn't make everyone laugh. In the eighth grade, one of my teachers found me to be too distracting. She never laughed once. I was surprised when I walked into class one morning to find that my desk had been completely boxed in, using a large cardboard refrigerator box. Out of sight, out of mind. The teacher thought it would be a quick fix to separate me from my "audience." True story. But it didn't work . . . I escaped!