Hello all. I’ve been racking my brain for years over this one and I need some help. I remember my first grade teacher reading this kids’ chapter book to us in increments during class in the mid-90s, but I can’t recall many of the details. It’s bugged me to death for years.
Here’s what I can remember: The protagonist is female, probably an older kid or teenager. The book is written in third person and in English. The setting was a fantasy pre-modern city or town. Could be Victorian-esque, but maybe earlier or later. The villain is a cruel, miserable guy named (or nicknamed) Soot who wears all black and is feared throughout the area. I think he drives some kind of carriage or wagon but I’m not sure. The story opens with a king taking his last breath and then dying. The story ends with Soot turning good and joining the heroes in some kind of magic they’ve learned, and the protagonist falls asleep listening to their incantations. I think said incantations involve groups of three unrelated words, and the very last one mentioned was “dictionary”. The most frequently suggested titles, Awful Auntie and Keys to the Kingdom, are not the ones. I know this isn’t much to go on, but anyone who manages to put this to rest will have my gratitude.