Yesterday Crumb and the storm in a teacup by Andy Sagar

cover image

Yesterday Crumb and the storm in a teacup by London and Cambridge based author Andy Sagar, is a wild trip into a world of pure fantasy. The story begins within the setting of a travelling circus (probably of the mid to late 1800s) when human oddities (freaks) were displayed to the crowds as part of the show. Our hero, Yesterday Crumb, is such a freak, an orphan, dumped with the show - a girl with fox ears. Despite the jeers and horrified curiosity of the crowd and the cruelty of her minders, Yesterday is feisty. She escapes from the circus into a world of magical cake and tea, witches and magical folk of all kinds.

The next setting is a teapot called Dwimmerly end which is capable of travel. It is a fantastical, quirky multi-coloured and patterned teapot, full of quirky characters, rooms and gardens, which functions as a magical tearoom serving magical teas to magic folk. The teapot travels to imaginary and real settings in England on its flamingo legs. Yesterday encounters a cast of characters who help her on her quest to remove the shard of ice that has lodged in her heart through the evil machinations of Mr Weep, the King of the Dead. She discovers that she is a changeling and that she has lost her magic. Under the tutelage of the sweet witch, Miss Dumpling, Yesterday learns to regain her magic. She learns some truths about her past, some of which are very hard to accept.  The cast of characters include the quite quirkily delightful Jack, Widdershins, Madrigal and Miss Dumpling, the villainous Mr Weep and the powerful Lady Saturnine. We learn of the roles and regulations in the witch kingdom as Yesterday learns to perfect her potions in order to become a licensed witch permitted to practice by the Royal College of Witches.

The magic is in the tea, with such potions as Jumbling Jasmine, Verdant Vanilla, Steeped Storm and Perfect Panacea being able to be used for a variety of powerful purposes. With time running out, Yesterday has to consolidate her powers, face the evil Mr Weep and complete her quest. The matter of her disappeared mother is still an unresolved mystery at the end of the book. The reader has to wait for the next book in the Yesterday Crumb series for more adventures of the teashop.

Note to teachers, librarians and parents: Chapter 18 and 19 deal with the kingdom of death/ the afterlife and the passageway to that place. The place is described as very grim. This may be unsuitable for children who are dealing with death or serious illness themselves or in their family. Sensitivity is needed around this subject. Although children know that this book is fantasy, they may not be able to distinguish that the depiction of the afterlife is also imaginary. 

Yesterday Crumb and the storm in a teacup drops readers into a very strange world. It is a richly descriptive, imaginative romp that is full of the warmth of friendship, the acceptance of difference and the power of friendships. It may be a challenge for young readers to acquaint and adapt themselves in order to sink into this peculiar imaginary world. It will be very interesting to see the take up of readership of Yesterday Crumb and the storm in a teacup and whether children will be capable of the suspension of reality that this book requires.

Themes: Magic, Fantasy, Belonging, Celebration of difference.

Wendy Jeffrey