An ideal read for middle-graders who like plenty of magic and adventure.

Circulus de Potentia

From the Magicae Mathematica series , Vol. 2

West (Libellus de Numeros, 2014) returns with another historical YA novel in his series about young Alex and her continuing adventures in a magical world.

This book picks up after the first volume left off and soon reintroduces Alex, the heroine of the first installment, and her friends, who take part in a celebration for Nosaj, one of many students of Archimedes who helped save the city from outside invaders. Later, a mysterious man comes to the local arena wearing a circlet inscribed with an equation featuring the symbol pi. This causes Archimedes to call upon Alex and her friends to go on a quest to find Pythagoras, perhaps the only man who understands what pi means, so the mystery man can be stopped before he fights all 100 Guardians, the city’s elite fighting force, and wreaks further havoc. Meanwhile, throughout the work, Diades and Demetrius, embittered former apprentices of Archimedes, plot to destroy what the city holds dear and to thwart Archimedes himself. Alex and her friends display courage, ingenuity, and maturity in the face of obstacles, and they know their math, just as they did in the first book of the series. In the end, Archimedes confronts the threat to the city (for now) in a manner that has just as much to do with Alex and her accomplishments as it does with the mystery of pi. She’s about to embark on yet another adventure as the book closes. West never forces mathematics or Latin on readers, but they both exist on the edges of the story. Readers will get comfortable pondering equations for determining volume and square roots, and they may pick up some Latin from the spells that Archimedes’ students use. There’s a looming sense in this book of an impending battle between good and evil, which lends every character’s actions a certain gravity. Overall, the novel is fast-paced and exciting and is a worthy follow-up to the first installment in the series.

An ideal read for middle-graders who like plenty of magic and adventure.

Pub Date: June 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5146-4168-2

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school.

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

From the Harry Potter series , Vol. 1

In a rousing first novel, already an award-winner in England, Harry is just a baby when his magical parents are done in by Voldemort, a wizard so dastardly other wizards are scared to mention his name.

So Harry is brought up by his mean Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia Dursley, and picked on by his horrid cousin Dudley. He knows nothing about his magical birthright until ten years later, when he learns he’s to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hogwarts is a lot like English boarding school, except that instead of classes in math and grammar, the curriculum features courses in Transfiguration, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry becomes the star player of Quidditch, a sort of mid-air ball game. With the help of his new friends Ron and Hermione, Harry solves a mystery involving a sorcerer’s stone that ultimately takes him to the evil Voldemort. This hugely enjoyable fantasy is filled with imaginative details, from oddly flavored jelly beans to dragons’ eggs hatched on the hearth.

It’s slanted toward action-oriented readers, who will find that Briticisms meld with all the other wonders of magic school. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-590-35340-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF

From the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series , Vol. 1

Edgar Award–winning Riordan leaves the adult world of mystery to begin a fantasy series for younger readers. Twelve-year-old Percy (full name, Perseus) Jackson has attended six schools in six years. Officially diagnosed with ADHD, his lack of self-control gets him in trouble again and again. What if it isn’t his fault? What if all the outrageous incidents that get him kicked out of school are the result of his being a “half-blood,” the product of a relationship between a human and a Greek god? Could it be true that his math teacher Mrs. Dodds transformed into a shriveled hag with bat wings, a Fury, and was trying to kill him? Did he really vanquish her with a pen that turned into a sword? One need not be an expert in Greek mythology to enjoy Percy’s journey to retrieve Zeus’s master bolt from the Underworld, but those who are familiar with the deities and demi-gods will have many an ah-ha moment. Along the way, Percy and his cohort run into Medusa, Cerberus and Pan, among others. The sardonic tone of the narrator’s voice lends a refreshing air of realism to this riotously paced quest tale of heroism that questions the realities of our world, family, friendship and loyalty. (Fantasy. 12-15)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-5629-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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