Friday, June 5, 2015

Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins -- ESSENTIAL

Mlynowski, Sarah, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins Upside Down Magic, 208 pgs. Scholastic Press, September 29, 2015. $14.99. Language: G (0 swears); Violence: PG; Mature Content: G.

Nory has serious magic troubles. While other kids her age can turn into kittens, beavers, skunks, or elephants, Nory can never hold one animal at a time. Instead, she always ends up becoming a "bitten" (beaver + kitten) or "skunkephant" (skunk + elephant) or some other unlikely combination. Her uncontrollable skills land her in a special class filled with other kids who have "wonky" magic of their own -- exactly what she doesn't need if she ever wants to be accepted as normal. But it turns out that wonky magic has its own benefits, and maybe wonkiness is a matter of perspective anyway.

This is a cute story with entertaining magical powers, plenty of humor, and a very likable heroine. What sends it into "essential" territory, though, is the natural way in which it handles diversity, and, especially, the many parallels between "upside down magic education" and real-life special education. In a fun way, and without being preachy (for the most part), Upside Down Magic has readers cheering for the special magic kids, hoping they will learn to accept their unusual abilities and show the "normal" kids that wonky magic may be different, but it's still just as good. The strong voice, funny scenarios, and possible discussion topics make this one perfect for a read-aloud. (My five-year-old, for example, adored it to no end.)

EL -- ESSENTIAL. Reviewer: Caryn.

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