Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

I loved Eva Evergreen enough to buy it on audiobook and listen again with my daughter, so I was eagerly awaiting this origin story of Eva’s mother’s best friend, Queen Alliana.  It is eligible to be nominated for the Cybils Awards, so if you read and loved it, keep an eye out for nominations, which open as always on October 1.

Alliana, Girl of Dragons
by Julie Abe

Little Brown, 2022

ISBN 9780316300353

Read from a library copy. 
Also available as an ebook through Libby.

Here, we are introduced to the future queen when she’s an abused orphan working in her stepmother’s inn.  This is told as a Cinderella story – Alliana remembers her time learning about herbs near the magical Rift from her father fondly, as well as the inn’s coziness before her father vanished into the Rift and her stepmother took over the inn.  Now the only person at home who cares for her is her step-grandmother, Mari, who keeps to herself in the attic and doesn’t know how poorly Alliana is treated. 

Alliana and her best friend, baker’s boy Isao, dream of escape to someplace beyond their dusty backwater town, but neither sees a way of escape.  Isao would need a proper apprenticeship – difficult when he cares for his younger brother as well – while Alliana’s stepmother holds ever-growing debt over her head.  Alliana’s best chance of escape is going to the nearby landowner’s annual ball for kids coming of age, where she would be tested for her ability to go to the Royal Academy.  But she knows her stepmother will do everything in her power to keep Alliana and her free labor at the inn.  

Then, two things happen that begin, slowly, to reduce her stepmother’s hold on her.  As she’s picking herbs near the Rift one day, she sees a gap in the magical barrier that keeps the creatures from the depths away from the human realm, and a small baby dragon under attack near it.  When she saves it, she earns its enduring devotion – and discovers that she has the long-lost ability to hear it communicating with her.  

Next, she meets a young apprentice witch her own age, Nela Evergreen, who quickly becomes friends with her (as well as falling hard for Isao’s baking.)  With help from Isao, Nela, and her dragon, she just might find her way to the ball and away from her cruel stepfamily.  

While I love this world and loved reading about her time with Grandmother Mari, Isao, Nela, and the dragon, most of Alliana’s time is tainted by her stepfamily’s deliberate cruelty – working her so hard she doesn’t have time to sleep, depriving her of proper food, and stealing or breaking her few possessions.  Her journey to freedom is more straight up the side of the Rift than uphill, and I was definitely cheering for her by the time she got there.  

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Cybils 2022!!

Hello, hello!

This is just a quick post to say that I’ll be serving as a Round 1 panelist for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category (aka my favorite) for this year’s Cybils Awards.

I always love this reading, and I’m excited to work with several people I haven’t worked with before, as well as our fearless leader Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library. I have been following Jenna of Falling Letters and Leila of Bookshelves of Doom for a long time, and am looking forward to getting to know Jolyn Asato, too.

This announcement means it’s almost October, and time to start putting together your ideas for books to nominate! (I’ll be working on that myself.) Nominations open up October 1, and you’ll have two weeks to nominate your favorite book of the past year in each of the categories.

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The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

This freshly imagined story of an immigrant girl, taking off from the author’s grandmother’s story, is filled with determination, hard-won joy, as well as hope and humor. 

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

Sourcebooks Young Readers, 2022

ISBN 9781728238449

Review copy kindly sent by the author. 

In The Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna, Petra went from one challenge to another in her epic journey leading her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito through the war-torn revolutionary Mexico of 1913 to the safety of the United States.  Now, they’re refugees in a disease-riddled camp in Texas.  Petra’s mission is to find a job that will pay enough that her family can find more permanent housing of their own, while still searching for news of her missing father and cousin.  But jobs are in short supply in general, and even worse for a twelve-year-old girl looking for pay high enough to support a family.  Their journey continues from the refugee camp to colorful San Antonio.  

Yet even as Petra works her hardest to improve her family’s situation, she’s getting mixed messages from the world around them.  They’re provided with great food in the refugee camp, for example, but none of the people there to offer jobs want to hire Petra.  She’s still told far too often that wanting to read is dreaming far above her station and will only lead to heartbreak.  And once in San Antonio, many people look down on her even more than they did in Mexico. Still, despite the prejudice, there are genuinely kind people who want to help, like the nun who gives her her first pair of shoes and starts teaching her to read, and it’s part of Petra’s challenge to learn to tell them apart from those who only want to take advantage of her.  As always, she carries the lump of coal that her father gave to her before they were separated, a reminder that it takes pressure to turn coal into a diamond.  

Readers will want to start with Barefoot Dreams, but the break between books is sharp enough and there’s enough context given that I think they’ll be able to start here if they can’t read the books in order for whatever reason.  Petra is filled with so much heart, her passion leading to enough mistakes for her journey to feel authentic. Sentences are straightforward yet limpid and poetic, somehow carrying the feeling of expressive writing that still feels like it could easily be translated back into Spanish.  (Not that translating is easy!)  Barefoot Dreams justly won honors, and I hope that The Other Side of the River wins similar acclaim.  

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Magical Schools: Wildseed Witch and Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m always excited for a good magical school story, and I’ve been so excited to see how many of them have been coming out this year, especially starring Black girls. You can take your pick between a school set in historic manor in Louisiana and one set at a futuristic school in Nigeria.

Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas. Abrams, 2022. ISBN 978-1419755613. Read from library copy. 
New Orleans middle schooler Hassani has two main goals:  to make it as a YouTuber with her channel “Makeup on the CheapCheap” to get her separated parents to reunite.  So when her father takes her to meet his new partner, Sandy, after they’ve already bought a house together, Hassani is outraged.  This leads to something that she only realizes is an outburst of magic after she is invited to attend Belles Demoiselles, a six-week-long magic academy/finishing school.  

Of course Hassani is thrilled to go, but once there, finds the school filled with girls who’ve been practicing their magic for years and all have clothing and room decor to match their “signature flowers,” and look down on Hassani and her dollar store YouTube channel.  The rules are unclear but the punishments are strict, leaving Hassani to wonder if she’s in the right place after all.  But with a good deal of effort, she does learn more about her powers and her flaws, makes some friends – and perhaps most importantly to the child reader, learns to use her powers to attract adorable kittens.  

I was a bit torn about this book.  On the one hand, it’s grounded in Black New Orleans history with all-Black characters at the school, while Hassani’s best friend at home is Latina.  I also liked that Hassani was able to recognize and address her own biases and work to fix problems she’s caused other people.  On the other hand, this magic school had an emphasis on traditionally feminine etiquette that did not appeal to me at all.  And the teachers didn’t seem to realize until almost the end of the book that they were punishing Hassani for not meeting expectations they’d never clarified to her, which seemed unnecessarily unkind.  That being said, between the magic, the relatable friend and family dynamics, the quest for YouTube stardom, and of course, the kittens, I could see a lot of kids really enjoying this book.  

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tọlá Okogwu. Read by Nneka Okogwu. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022. ISBN 9781665912617. Listened to audiobook on Libby. 
Onyeka and her mother have always just scraped by, moving from one cheap apartment to another.  She’s never met her father, and her mother has never told her anything about him or why they moved to London from Nigeria.  Onyeka’s always wondered, especially because her big, wild hair seems to set people in England on edge.  But when her hair saves her best friend from drowning, she finally learns the truth: she is Solari, and called to go to a state-run school in Nigeria to learn how to use her powers.  In this near-future story, Nigeria leads the world in technology, and the students have lots of high-tech help in their missions. defending the school from the Rogues.  Onyeka  makes friends and finds community, but also learns that not all is as it seems at the school that at first feels like a dream come true.  

This is a fast-paced thriller of a story, with lots of good things going for it, including Onyeka, mysteries and plot twists (though the plot twist seemed fairly obvious to me, it probably wouldn’t to a younger reader.)  I really enjoyed watching (or listening to) Onyeka learn to use her powers, and the audiobook version let me hear the accents in all their glory, from London to Lagos.  My biggest problem is that while I wanted it to be empowering for the unruly Black hair to have actual magic powers, using the powers made her sick as a matter of course, and that undermined a lot of the Black hair positivity for me.  Still, this is a valuable addition to the magical school roster.  

What are your favorite magical school books? 

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A Taste of Magic by J. Elle

This has been a great summer to find out about new magical schools!  This latest book set in a magical school comes out August 30, just in time for the start of mundane schools. It’s by author J. Elle, bestselling author of the YA book Wings of Ebony, making her middle grade debut. Welcome to the middle grade club, J. Elle!

A Taste of Magic
by J. Elle

Bloomsbury, 2022.

ISBN 978-1547606719

Review copy kindly sent by the publisher.  

It’s Kyana’s twelfth birthday, and even though her Momma can’t afford either to buy her a gift or take time off of her jobs to spend with her, Kyana is excited that she might finally learn the family secret.  This manifests itself almost immediately in the form of tingling fingers as she’s faced with a cafeteria tray of green mush – and just as quickly, whatever it is starts coming between Kyana and her best friend Nae.  First Kyana is distracted from the birthday gift Nae is giving her by the tingling.  Then, as Kyana finds out that she a) has magic; b) must keep it a secret; and c) has to spend all day every Saturday in magic class, things get even more challenging.  She’s never had to keep secrets from Nae before, and it’s even worse when the magic classes have her making excuses for missing planned times with Nae.

Meanwhile, Kyana has plenty to keep her busy at home, as she takes care of and learns from Memaw, who’s teaching her cooking and baking despite her developing dementia.  And it turns out that her her neighborhood magic school, Park Row Magic Academy, is right in the back of her hair stylist Ms. Moesha’s beauty shop.  Even though she comes from a magical family, as her mother and grandmother don’t use it, she feels very behind in a class full of kids who’ve known about magic since they were small.  Not only is there the social scene to manage – making friends with quiet, homeschooled Ash, and trying to take on stuck-up Russ, who also goes to her regular school and has been openly mean to Nae.  There’s also a very tight timeline to figure out her magical specialty – readers will probably figure out sooner that Kyana does that it’s related to her skills in the kitchen – and to pick a community service project that will showcase her magical abilities.  But how will she do that, when she’s just learning about her own magic and the magical community itself? 

Then, the Park Row Magic Academy itself is threatened with closing due to lack of funding – and that would mean that all the inner city kids who go there would either have to find transportation and tuition fees to go the schools in more upscale neighborhoods or give up their magic.  Now Kyana has a real mission, one that will require her to learn everything she can about her own magic and the magical community at large, as well as draw on the strengths of her family and friends.  

The Park Row Magic Academy and the neighborhood magic community is lovingly grounded in African-American culture, highlighting the importance of the beauty and barber shops and other local institutions. I really liked both that there are multiple magic academies in the city, and that adults with magical abilities are found throughout the community in many different jobs.  There’s plenty of humor in the spells, the magic robes, which appear when a wig or snapback cap are put on instead of needing to be carried around, Kyana’s initial magical mishaps, the ferrets who come door to door to ferret out (sorry, I couldn’t help it) magical law-breaking, and the opinionated spirits magically attached to objects.  This, combined with the ever-complicated middle school social scene and lots of delicious baking makes for a story that will draw readers in with magic, humor, and relatability.  

I still have a couple more new magical school books that I’m hoping to review for you soon, but if this is a category you love, try also:

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Blog Tour! HOMEBOUND by John David Anderson

As you all might remember, I was really impressed with John David Anderson’s STOWAWAY. Today, I’m very pleased to be part of the blog tour for the sequel of this duology, HOMEBOUND! If you love thrilling space adventures and galactic war combined with found and real family and reflections on the meaning of life, read on! But before I get started, I’ll point out that HOMEBOUND is eligible to be nominated for this year’s Cybils Awards, so if you read it and love it, you could be the one to do so!

About HOMEBOUND by John David Anderson

Leo Fender is no stranger to catastrophe, whether it’s the intergalactic war that took his mother’s life or the ongoing fight for his own. He’s seen his planet plundered, his ship attacked, his father kidnapped, and his brother go missing—and found himself stranded on a ship with a bunch of mercenary space pirates. Still, nothing could have prepared him for the moment he and the crew tried to save his father—and discovered a dark plot that could destroy hundreds of worlds in the blink of an eye.
Now, Leo is adrift. His father has sent him on a mission with nothing but a data chip and a name
of someone who could help, and Captain Bastian Black and the crew of the Icarus are determined to see this through to the end with Leo, to fulfill his father’s wish and prevent further conflict. But as Leo searches for answers, he can’t help but wonder what it would take to end the war, to track down his father and brother and return to whatever home they have left—and if the cost of doing so is one he would be able to pay.

John David Anderson returns with the conclusion to the epic coming-of-age adventure that began in Stowaway—a riveting and heartfelt search for hope and home, family and future, in a galaxy ravaged by war.

John David Anderson author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Stowaway, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer
connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

My Take

Homebound by John David Anderson. Walden Pond Press, 2022. ISBN 978-0062986009. E-ARC provided by the publisher.
In STOWAWAY, our Leo was separated from his family for the first time, thrown in with a crew of pirates, and had to convince them to help him track down his father and hope for a way to find his brother.

Now, in HOMEBOUND, his family is still separated, and he has the additional mission of trying to stop a galactic-level war. For just a smidge more extra pressure, you know. There’s a new planet to visit and a non-human person who needs to be convinced to help them. Leo, who’s always been plagued with anxiety and relied on his parents or older brother, needs to identify his own power and, with less than ideal choices all around, figure out what his values are and what choices best align with them. The action in the present tense is interwoven with memories of his time on Earth, of picnics with his mother, games with his brother, and overheard adult conversations, all of which contribute to his actions in the present.

In addition to introspection, there is still the wild and wonderful found family of his pirate crew, as well as strange alien food, robot romance, loud rock music, and quite a few chase and battle scenes, together with a strong environmental message – because who can appreciate Earth more than people who’ve been living in a space ship? This books perfectly rounds out the story that began in STOWAWAY. If you enjoyed that, you’ll definitely want to pick up that. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the perfect time to binge read them.

HOMEWARD BLOG TOUR AUGUST 23-SEPTEMBER 3, 2022

August 23 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
August 26 A Library Mama @alibrarymama
August 30 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
September 1 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius
September 3 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke

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How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson

I have been somewhat behind on my blog reading of late, so it wasn’t until recently that I saw Daisy May at Did You Ever Stop to Think? talking about the second book in her series coming out that I realized there was a first one.  Happily, that first one was right on the new book shelf at my library, so I checked it out right away. 

How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson. Henry Holt, 2021. ISBN 978-1250796080 Read from library copy.

This series is a fresh take on the classic boarding school stories, such as the Chalet School series, which I confess I have never read, though Daisy May is far from the only of my blogging friends who is a fan.  

The story is first introduced to us as a story about people being brave, ducks, and footnotes, told to us by someone who is in the story but not either of our main characters. First, we are introduced to Elizabeth, now a doctor studying ducks, but who as a child, due to very unfortunate circumstances indeed, had to begin at a boarding school run by the Order of Good Sisters, where she rescued a rare duck (thus discovering her life’s passion), and made one very good friend and one enemy.  She was cared for by Good Sister June, taught light aircraft maintenance by Good Sister Honey, and fed rainbow sponge and chocolate custard by Good Sister Robin.  

Then the story skips ahead to the time when Elizabeth is an adult struggling to make a living with her knowledge of the rare Amazon duck without opening it up to exploitation, while her own daughter, Calla, is about the same age that Elizabeth was at the beginning of the book.  Times are hard indeed when Elizabeth receives what seems to be a life-changing offer to study the duck in the Amazon.  To make this possible, Calla must start at the same school Elizabeth once attended – where her mother’s old best friend is now Good Sister Christine, and her mother’s old enemy has recently taken over as headmistress.  Calla is mostly nervous about trying to make new friends when she notices that her mother has missed every one of their scheduled calls…

Calla has taken care of herself and her absent-minded mother her whole life, but now for the first time, she has friends.  Her roommates in the North Tower, Edie and Hanna, are already involved in the revolution against the new headmistress, and are eager to help when Calla finds herself directly under the line of fire.  There are many secrets to be revealed – the rooftop parties, hidden passageways, and cupboards filled with the results of illicit stress baking by the Good Sisters on the way to finding out just what has happened to Calla’s mother – and of course, deposing the evil headmistress.  The book itself is filled with delightful footnote asides from the narrator with thoughts such as

“Under normal circumstances you should not listen to somebody on the phone. Their business is not your business, even if they are talking about interesting and scandalous things.  However, …[this] was a most unusual circumstance, so Elizabeth decided that normal did not apply.” 

How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson p 10

and 

“Biscuits should form part of every plan, naturally.”

How to Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson p 135

This was a book about family, friendships, British baked goods, and bravery.  And it was so funny that I found myself reading far more bits aloud than usual to whichever of my hapless family members was nearby.  I will say that though the American cover is lovely, it makes the book look as if it is a peaceful book about spending time in nature with ducks, instead of an action-packed book set in a spirited boarding school.  I have therefore included the UK cover as well for comparison.  

The next book, How to Be True is out now in the UK and will be out September 27 in the US.

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Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

It looks like I never wrote a review of it, but I remember really enjoying Millicent Min, Girl Genius back when it was new, a good many years ago. And then Grace Lin was talking on her podcast about how much she likes her. I realized I hadn’t read any of her books since then (sorry, Lisa!) – but lucky me, she had a brand new book sitting on the shelf!

Maizy Chen's Last Chance by Lisa Yee

Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee Random House, 2022 ISBN 9781984830258 Read from library copy. Ebook and audiobook available on Libby.

Maizy has grown up with her single-by-choice mother in Los Angeles, where her grandparents (Oma and Opa) have never visited them.  But now, suddenly, she and her mom are spending the summer in Last Chance, Minnesota, where her grandparents run a Chinese restaurant called the Golden Palace. Maizy is less than thrilled to be leaving her best friend for the summer. Seeing the simmering tensions between her mother and grandparents doesn’t help, and neither does the open prejudice she experiences from several of the few other kids her age in town – she’s never been the only Asian American before.  But she still develops a special bond with her grandfather, who teaches her to play poker and tells her stories of how his great-great grandfather, Lucky, emigrated from China and ended his long journeys in Last Chance. 

 The tiny town is filled with interesting characters whom Maizy gets to know – Daisy, the Golden Palace’s assistant, terrible at cooking and serving but passionate about the environment. Lady Beth (or Macbeth), the richest person in town, who’s always sitting in the middle of the restaurant ordering more food than she can eat. Logan, the only kid her age who’ll talk to her.  Principal Holmes, who wears a different funny t-shirt about reading every day and who went to prom with her mother.  Mayor Whitlock, also the town’s public relations specialist.  Werner, who runs the German sausage restaurant in town and was once her Opa’s best friend.  And of course Bud, the giant wooden bear who stands guard outside the Golden Palace.

As Maizy gets more comfortable with Last Chance, she starts typing custom fortunes for the fortune cookies at the restaurant, sometimes just more fun than the commercially printed ones, sometimes targeted directly at the people who are getting them, such as “You can do better” for a teen girl on a date with an overbearing boy.  All the time, she can see her grandfather fading.  And then Bud the bear goes missing, with a racist ransom note left behind, and it’s up to Maizy and Logan to track him down.  

This has a lot of different strands woven together, from the classic city kid in a small town to the large and small effects of racism, a look at healing frayed relationships, and the strength of learning one’s past.  I found myself thinking about Maizy even when I wasn’t reading it, and closed the book with a sigh of satisfaction.  I might have to go catch up on some of Lisa’s backlist now.

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Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald

As I recently mentioned, it’s very rare for my daughter to read print books.  This is one that she first borrowed from a friend (whose recommendations are of course more reliable than my own) and then asked to buy because she loved it so much.  

Pepper's Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald

Pepper’s Rules
for Secret Sleuthing  
by Briana McDonald

Simon & Schuster, 2020

ISBN 978-1534453432

Read from purchased copy. 

Pepper and her father are visiting her Great-Aunt Florence’s mansion for the first time only now that she’s dead.  Despite an old mansion being a perfect place for “summertime sleuthing,” her father has made her promise not to start searching for foul play. It is, after all, perfectly normal for old ladies to die.  Pepper isn’t impressed with her bossy and cold Aunt Wendy (who wants to straighten her hair) and her openly hostile cousin Andrew, so she instead befriends the boy down the street, Jacob, who turns out to be trans. (All characters read as white.)  Jacob’s fears of his parents having a baby sister to replace the girl they thought he was resonate with Pepper’s worries about her (so far disastrous) crush on another girl in her class at school.  But with a yard maintenance guy hanging out around the mansion in his black van way more than he ought to need to, an owl-obsessed old lady across the street who might just have dementia but might also have clues, and Andrew’s tutor openly flirting with Pepper’s dad, Pepper can’t help using her mother’s old detective notebook just to make sure everything is as it should be.  Andrew is increasingly angry at Pepper for suspecting his mother, but as the kids keep digging, more and more things come to light, putting the kids in more and more danger…

This has something of the feel of a classic children’s mystery series, but with a modern sensibility.  Spoiler: Great-Aunt Florence was murdered, but as it has already happened when the story begins and Pepper has no emotional attachment to the victim, there is no gore or horror attached to it.  Pepper’s sleuthing is about her connection to her own dead mother and her desire for adventure and justice, and these are certainly delivered.  The relationships between the kids develop nicely over the course of the story, and I appreciated that the villain turns out not to be as wholly villainous as Pepper at first thinks.  

Although it feels like a series, I don’t see that any more have been written.  McDonald does have another solo mystery book coming out in October, The Secrets of Stone Creek. 

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Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson

Sophie Anderson previously brought us The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl Who Speaks Bear, so of course I was excited to see her come out with a new book. (Those of you in the UK can also keep an eye out for The Thief who Sang Storms, which appears not to have made it to the US yet.)

Cover of Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson

Castle of Tangled Magic
by Sophie Anderson

Scholastic, 2022

ISBN 978-1338746211

Read from library copy. 
Ebook available on Libby.

Castle Mila is a beautiful castle built of golden logs with 33 domes.  12-year-old Olia is proud to live in the beautiful castle with her parents, her beloved Babusya, and her baby sister Rosa.  Their family was once royal, but now that the village is a democracy, they just work to maintain the historic building, using its great halls for community events.  Olia and her friends especially delight in searching for the hidden staircases that lead to the attics inside the domes, which often contain forgotten treasures.  Babusya often tells Olia that she would see the magic around her if she only looked with her heart, but Olia’s efforts have so far been in vain. 

Then enormous storms start hitting just the castle, not the village.  Suddenly Olia can see the castle’s domovoi, a fox spirit named Feliks. Babusya sends Feliks and Olia to travel to the pocket world from which the storms are coming, the world where the castle’s founder, Princess Ludmila, exiled nearly all of the magic creatures of Olia’s world.  Somehow, magic is leaking in the form of storms that are tearing the beautiful castle apart. 

The magical realm is full of surprises, and Olia and Feliks befriend new magical beings in each of its various habitat domes, including the grouchy cat named Koshka who used to be a witch shown on the cover, a rusalka, a tree spirit, and a giant.  And at the very end, a connection to The House with Chicken Legs is revealed.  

The book has many appealing elements, including the magical castle, Olia’s contemporary-feeling, energetic voice, Feliks and Koshka for the fox- and cat-lovers, and of course the exploration of a magical world.  I enjoyed all of these elements, but what really made the book shine was the meditation on reparations.  All the human characters are white, so we’re looking without the complicating factor of race at the essential question, “What do we owe to people who are still being harmed by the actions our ancestors took well before our own lifetimes?”   

On a side note, this book has so many elements that I believe my own daughter would love – she also read The House with Chicken Legs in class and loved it enough to make her own 3D model of it, she still re-reads Tuesdays at the Castle regularly, and it has a cat.  But she took one look at the cover, decided it was creepy, and even though she liked the UK cover (at right ) better, flat out refused to try this one.  

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