In this third installment of a series, a young girl leads a family in a dying world to safety in her own realm through a magic portal.
The two previous picture books, written in a fairy-tale–like style, introduced Magic Moon and his ability to grant certain requests. Now, this chapter book for young readers expands the concept, providing more background and linking Magic Moon’s world with Earth. The picture-book family now has names: Bronwen is the mother of Jackson, 10, and Dany, 7. But the realm they are inhabiting is temporary, and it’s time to return to their home world before the Gray Fog comes and obliterates all. Magic Moon is moving on as well but has promised Bronwen that a young girl will help. On present-day Earth, 10-year-old Tara has a warm family, including her father, mother, and stepfather, but she’s lonely for friends her own age. While exploring a mountain path, Tara discovers a secret cave. Following voices calling for aid, she steps through a magic portal and meets Jackson and Dany, leading them to safety. Tara’s father, Seneca, is enlisted to help Bronwen, who is injured. The two families get along well; Seneca invites Bronwen to use his cabin (he also has an apartment in the city), and by the end, Tara has gained new friends in Jackson and Dany—and maybe, she thinks, a stepmother in Bronwen. Moulton (Magic Moon: Sister’s Turn, 2017, etc.) offers much more detail and realism in this third series outing, although the reasons behind Bronwen’s first seeking a haven in another world remain murky. Sometimes the details aren’t well-chosen; knowing exactly where everyone was sitting in a truck doesn’t add much to the story, for example, except to pad out a rather thin plot. Moulton overly relies on distracting dialogue tags to convey meaning: “ ‘Hey, stop it!’ she warned,” for example, as if “stop it!” isn’t obviously a warning. That said, Tara’s resourcefulness is admirable. For example, needing a way to ensure she can find her way back to the cave, she tears her sock into strips and marks the path.
A brave and canny heroine stands out in this portal adventure.