This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children s literature. Today s reviews are by Melissa Cain of the University of Findlay.
If you can t wait until the seventh Harry Potter, try these fantasies:
MAGIC BY THE BOOK. By Nina Bernstein. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $17. Ages 8-12.
Bernstein s first novel is a tribute to the power of books in the lives of children. Anne and Emily open an unremarkable library book and are whisked into an adventure with Robin Hood s merry men. When their little brother Will, a nonreader, opens the book, he enters the insect-sized world of Jardinia. There, he finds the key to unlocking reading.
In the final magical journey to Tolstoy s snowy Russia, the children overcome an evil interloper who wanted to steal the book. Finally, the due date changes from Not Yet to Today. The adventures are over, leaving readers hoping for a sequel.
SEPTIMUS HEAP, BOOK ONE: MAGYK. By Angie Sage. Illustrated by Mark Zug. HarperCollins. $16.99. Ages 9-up.
Septimus Heap, the seventh son of a seventh son, is special, but he does not know it. As a baby he was stolen away to become Boy 412 in the Young Army, the guard set to watch the wizard community by the untrusting Supreme Custodian. Septimus parents, believing him dead, adopted Jenna, whose mother was the assassinated queen.
As the story unfolds, readers are drawn into Septimus and Jenna s world: they encounter spells, boggarts, rat messengers, and much more. Slowly, Boy 412 s distrust of wizards thaws and his true identity is revealed, paving the way for Book Two.
MEASLE AND THE DRAGODON. By Ian Ogilvy. HarperCollins. $15.99. Ages 8-13.
This is the second book about Measle Stubbs, an orphan who overcame an evil wrathmonk and found that he had a family after all. Now the remaining wrathmonks, the worst magical creatures possible, seek revenge by kidnapping Measle s mother and incapacitating his father.
Measle s quest to save them takes him to an off-season amusement park, where he must outwit the not-too-bright wrathmonks.
The animated stuffed toys, carousel horses and Tyrannosaurus Rex they set on Measle lend humor, and a little terror, to the story. Measle endears himself to readers through his earnest efforts to overcome all obstacles.
ARTHUR AND THE MINIMOYS. By Luc Besson. HarperCollins. $15.99. Ages 8-12.
This first novel for young readers by internationally known filmmaker Besson will soon be followed by a sequel and a movie. Arthur, whose parents are away job hunting, is staying with his grandmother, who also has fallen on hard times because of the disappearance of her anthropologist husband. He studied obscure African tribes, including the tiny Minimoys. Arthur must connect with the Minimoys to find his grandfather, recover his stolen treasure, and save the family s property from the evil Davido.
During his mission, he overcomes an attack by warriors on mosquitoes and befriends a prickly princess.
THE WIZARD TEST. By Hilari Bell. HarperCollins. $15.99. Ages 8-13.
Dayven is a wizard and hates the thought. He lives in a world in which wizards are mistrusted. And, confounding things, his grandmother shamed his family by helping them. When the Lordowner decides to send him to wizard school as a spy, Reddick, a wizard, accompanies him and teaches him something of wizardry.
Dayven fights his growing respect for wizards as he comes to know their ways. Then, when faced with helping a badly injured friend, he uses the power he has denied to heal and discovers his true calling as a wizard.
MAGIC OR MADNESS. By Justine Larbalestier. Razorbill/Penguin. $16.99. Ages 12-up.
Reason Cansino lived on the run in Australia for all of her 15 years. Her mother, Sarafina, doesn t believe in magic and fears her own mother, Esmerelda, whom she accuses of practicing dark rituals.
When Sarafina has a mental breakdown, Reason is sent to the place she fears most her grandmother s. There, nothing seems as bad as her mother led her to believe, until she opens a door and walks into New York City.
Suddenly she realizes magic is real and she herself possesses it. What she discovers about the nature of magic, however, is chilling.
This is the first of a trilogy exploring magic from a completely different perspective.