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This captivating tale of magic spells and a young hero launches a promising saga.

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A boy discovers his family’s surprising history at a school for magic in this middle-grade supernatural novel.

Wil Wychwood loses his grandmother, who had raised him since his parents’ deaths, and their Toronto home to a sudden fire. The 10-year-old boy now only has his cherished snake, Esme, who joins him on his train ride to Winnipeg. That’s where he’ll be living with his two aunts and cousin Sophie—relatives he didn’t even know he had. It turns out he’s part of a family of mages, though Wil is initially skeptical. The city of MiddleGate is special, and Wil and Sophie attend an academy where they learn magic. It’s a bizarre school of bullies, stern mage teachers, and the library’s notoriously pesky ghost. But there may be a genuine menace hiding among the people of MiddleGate. Wil suspects a person in authority is up to no good, while his aunt Violet cryptically warns him about an ancient, enigmatic secret society. Indeed, someone willing to commit kidnapping and possibly worse crimes wants something from Wil. In this series opener, Bridgman grounds her narrative with a likable young hero trying to fit in at a new school. Wil loves books and absolutely adores Esme, a nonvenomous reptile who doesn’t bite. The author gradually and skillfully adds supernatural elements, such as students and mages manipulating their shadows. There are also abundant mysteries involving the academy and the protagonist’s past; certain characters are actually more important than they first appear, including an old friend of Wil’s. The author, meanwhile, depicts the city’s landscapes with assiduity and panache: “Gravestones leaned perilously in derelict cemeteries, and exploded tire shreds pitched like so many dead blackbirds along the highway.” Although most questions raised have no answers in sight, a couple of reveals are doozies.

This captivating tale of magic spells and a young hero launches a promising saga.

Pub Date: April 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5255-8590-6

Page Count: 234

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2022

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From the Legacy series , Vol. 2

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship.

A young tennis champion becomes the target of revenge.

In this sequel to Legacy and the Queen (2019), Legacy Petrin and her friends Javi and Pippa have returned to Legacy’s home province and the orphanage run by her father. With her friends’ help, she is in training to defend her championship when they discover that another player, operating under the protection of High Consul Silla, is presenting herself as Legacy. She is so convincing that the real Legacy is accused of being an imitation. False Legacy has become a hero to the masses, further strengthening Silla’s hold, and it becomes imperative to uncover and defeat her. If Legacy is to win again, she must play her imposter while disguised as someone else. Winning at tennis is not just about money and fame, but resisting Silla’s plans to send more young people into brutal mines with little hope of better lives. Legacy will have to overcome her fears and find the magic that allowed her to claim victory in the past. This story, with its elements of sports, fantasy, and social consciousness that highlight tensions between the powerful and those they prey upon, successfully continues the series conceived by late basketball superstar Bryant. As before, the tennis matches are depicted with pace and spirit. Legacy and Javi have brown skin; most other characters default to White.

A worthy combination of athletic action, the virtues of inner strength, and the importance of friendship. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-949520-19-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Granity Studios

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem.

A middle schooler struggles to adjust after moving to an idyllic Massachusetts town.

Trish Das is at a crossroads. Not only is the 12-year-old unhappy that her family has moved yet again due to her mother’s cardiology career, she also has to try out for a new baseball team. The fact that one of her new teammates is a former archrival further complicates matters. Math prodigy Ben Messina went head-to-head against fellow math whiz Trish at last spring’s Math Puzzlers Championship. When Trish emerged victorious, Ben was stunned. The two get closer when the team’s mysterious pregame snacks start making everyone play better while also causing magical side effects during games. Equally surprising are the cryptic puzzle booklets Trish and Ben receive in the mail that lead them to even more wins. But as the puzzles get harder to solve, the risk of failing to do so increases. Alternating between Trish’s and Ben’s perspectives, LaRocca’s novel—a companion to 2019’s Midsummer’s Mayhem—is a Much Ado About Nothing homage that explores parental expectations, complicated friendships, and teamwork. The protagonists’ love of problem-solving shines through, and the puzzles themselves are clearly explained. As a third-generation Indian American, Trish also has moving conversations about the circumstances that led her grandparents to emigrate and how those decisions still impact their lives. Ben is implied White. Final illustrations not seen.

A moving tale of baseball, magic, and former rivals who come together to solve a problem. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4998-1101-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yellow Jacket

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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