A mix of mathematics, sorcery and heroism that’s not to be missed.

Libellus de Numeros

From the Magicae Mathematica series

West’s debut middle-grade novel asks: What happens when a young girl finds herself in a city governed by magic and math?

For young Alex, traveling all over the world with her engineer father has lost its sheen, and she’s discontented with her life. One day, however, during a confrontation with bullies at school, she’s suddenly and inexplicably thrown into a new world. There she meets Archimedes, a surprisingly sprightly old man who appears to be a magical being. He takes her to a place called the City, where she learns that what she sees as magic is actually a combination of math and Latin. As it turns out, Alex already knows Latin—and she’s about to learn a lot more math. Under Archimedes’ wing, she and other students learn lessons from the Book of Numbers, which give her powers that the City’s ruling classes fear. As trouble brews outside the City from wizards who’ve turned to the dark side, Alex struggles with the power of her own magic, her homesickness, and the intensity of her emotions. When danger comes to the City itself, Alex and Archimedes must try to save it in the only way they know how—with math, magic and love. West’s novel will appeal strongly to readers who enjoyed Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) as younger children. As with that book, a pre-existing love of math isn’t required; Alex doesn’t see the big deal about numbers until she learns about their magic, and readers won’t need to either. West uses figures from Greek mythology throughout the book, and these references will be delightful to those who understand them, but unimportant to those who don’t. The author draws on a wide range of sources—including a city that resembles the one in Plato’s The Republic—while still managing to write a gripping book for middle-grade readers. The references may even inspire further reading in the classics. Alex’s femininity is never a plot point, either, providing an ideal example of a strong girl completing heroic tasks.

A mix of mathematics, sorcery and heroism that’s not to be missed.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502834911

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 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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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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