A classic good-vs.-evil romp finds kid magicians wielding the real stuff.
Duncan Reyes and Emma Gilbert are middle schoolers in Elephant County, named for a distinctive rock at the center of their town. Duncan is a magician, and as Emma will remind everyone, she is his “co-magician,” not his assistant. The two kids accidentally get entangled with real magic when they break into the neighborhood witch’s house to retrieve Duncan’s lost backpack and end up with a piece of her magic wand. When a spell at the school talent show goes awry, Duncan must use real magic to rescue himself, and then the world’s elite magicians and journalists descend upon the town—which means that an evil magician bent on getting the wand arrives to town as well. With chapters alternating between Emma and Duncan and black-and-white illustrations that are part of a case file on the entire incident, the novel moves along at a steady pace and culminates in a great battle in which kids really do save the day. The conscious consideration given to the class differential between Duncan, whose Puerto Rican family struggles financially, and Emma, who is well-to-do and white, is just one of the novel’s many grace notes.
Behind the fun there are thoughtful and subtle meditations on socio-economic class, bullying, and family relationships to boot. (Fantasy. 8-12)