This first installment in a Heidi Heckelbeck series spinoff stars Heidi’s younger brother.
Henry Heckelbeck’s perfectly fine with being an ordinary person, unlike his female witch relatives. A kid focused on saving time, Henry’s excited about being prepared for another year at school. For their first assignment, Henry and his classmates must make All About Me bags containing three items that reveal things about them. While trying to get his remote-controlled toy dragon off the shelf to complete his bag, Henry stumbles upon a mysterious old book containing both a medal and a personal dragon spell. When putting on the medal and chanting the spell unexpectedly brings his toy dragon to life, Henry must catch his dragon and keep the magical mischief under wraps. A secondary character named Mackenzie “Max” Maplethorpe (in case readers miss it, Henry makes the connection between Max and Heidi’s classmate Melanie Maplethorpe) is a particularly observant threat to Henry’s new, magical secret. Although the broad strokes of setup and plotline are beyond familiar, Henry’s character—high energy and believably quirky—makes up for a lot. Aside from the story, the familiar format’s large print with easy words and frequent picture breaks results in an unintimidating book for emergent independent readers. The illustrations—black line art on white page—generally lack racial cues, though on the cover Henry is depicted with light skin.
This gentle, lightly magical story leans on the comfort of familiarity over novelty. (Fantasy. 5-9)