As a “talker of tongues,” 9-year-old Maddy West has the astonishing and enviable ability to speak and read any language.
While most people are simply amazed by her ability, there are those who would like to exploit her talent. When professor Coateloch, a linguist, asks Maddy to translate ancient scrolls in an island monastery on the Black Sea, her parents see dollar signs rather than danger signs. Maddy soon finds that the professor’s interest in her ability is far from academic. Thankfully, Maddy is as adept at making friends as she is at communicating. Along with her ninjalike neighbor, Kazuki, Maddy gains the help of Bulgarian wrestler Dimitar the Giant and his crafty monkey, Mr. Chester. And Maddy will need all the help she can get if she is going to defeat the professor (aka the Chocolate Witch) and thwart her plans for world domination. While Maddy’s magical ability is impressive, she really shines in her normal human moments of compassion, forgiveness and acceptance. A river of cockroaches, a wild car ride and age-appropriate humor all come together in this magical adventure. Unfortunately, the rushed ending fails to address some of the deeper emotional issues.
On balance, warm and magical. (Fantasy. 8-12)