A displaced 12-year-old finds magic and adventure right in his new backyard.
Karl’s summer break isn’t shaping up to be as much fun as he had hoped. When his father is betrayed by a business partner, the family has to sell everything in order to pay off the debts incurred by the resulting lawsuits. Forced out of their luxurious San Francisco home, the family moves to a broken-down ranch house nestled in an Arizonan canyon near Tucson. The relocation puts a terrible strain on the family and the parents argue the whole way there. The only bright spot is that Aunt Kathy allows the family to live there rent-free. Karl, his brother and their parents begin the long process of cleaning and restoring the ranch home and soon discover that things are not as they seem. Karl discovers writing in a spider web but chalks it up to too many hours spent in front of his computer exploring virtual worlds, worlds he won’t be revisiting anytime soon under the family’s new restrictive budget. Next, Karl receives a dire warning from a neighborhood boy, which makes him wonder all the more about his new home. But when Karl meets a talking spider and sees an old woman’s face in his window, he is absolutely convinced that strange forces are at work. Soon Karl teams up with Mary, a spider who was once a girl. With only an old magic spell book and their wits and imagination to guide them, Karl and Mary battle Vira the Witch in order to defend their canyon home, return Mary to her human form and save Karl’s family. For in this Tucson canyon, stripped of material distractions, Karl’s family has forged a bond worth fighting a dragon and enchanted bats for.
Loaded with commentary, word definitions and story expansions, this fantastic debut young adult novel is a fast-moving, magical, action-adventure story that unobtrusively passes along a few lessons on how to disengage from the virtual world and develop solid values.