Similar to A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, but a tighter story, with better-defined secondary characters and internal story logic.
Again there’s a young apprentice with small, oddly specific magical abilities, who gets drawn into a caper, blamed for it, and finds herself as the only person who can resolve it, and has to both stretch her magic and convince the adults around to help her (and let her help them).
This time the magic is art. Paintings and drawings, if done the right way with the right details by by someone with the right ability, can become magical objects. Rosa was born into a family of Illuminators. A very eccentric family. Each with their own eccentricity. And that’s before she encounters the magical talking crow (who is very taken with shiny objects) and the malicious creature he was guarding.
The stakes are more personal: the Scarling has it specifically out for the Mandolini family. But there’s a clear potential for it to spiral out of control. Like Mona, Rosa makes mistakes, but again they’re believable mistakes. And in this book the adults have character reasons for finally believing her, not just plot reasons.
There’s a lot of mischief and magic, though only one mandrake as I recall. And because Rosa doesn’t need to leave home on her hero’s journey like Oliver (Minor Mage) or Mona, everyone in her family takes part in the story instead of just being window dressing for the framing sequence.
It’s aimed at kids, yes: kids who appreciate not being talked down to. And it’s written so that adults will have fun with it too.
More of T. Kingfisher’s kids’ books at her official website.