Tag Archives: magic

The Wizards of Once – Written & illustrated by Cressida Cowell

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wizards

(wish you could see the coppery accents!)

Hachette

September 2017

ISBN 9781444939576

Following twelve books in the How to Train Your Dragon series, devotees of Cressida Cowell’s distinctive quirky writing and illustrating are bound to be enchanted by this first in a completely new series.

Some of the most exquisite cover art I have ever seen promises a read chockfull of mystery and adventure and it certainly does not disappoint.

Xar is a small Wizard, the youngest son of Encanzo the King Enchanter. He is wilful, disobedient, reckless and often just plain naughty and a great disappointment to his father, especially as his Magic has not yet come in.  Fed up with this situation, Xar takes it upon himself to lead his retinue of assorted creatures and sprites plus his raven counsel Caliburn into the Badwoods (against all the rules) to try out his grand plan of trapping a Witch and stealing it’s magic. Of course, Witches are supposed to be extinct after the long ago wars between Wizards, Warriors and Witches but Xar has found a special feather which he is convinced is of Witch origin.

Coming from the opposite direction, that of the Warrior fort, a small awkward girl rides her pony accompanied by her protesting novice bodyguard, Bodkin. Wish is the youngest daughter of Queen Sychorax, leader of the Warriors and an imperious, dangerous person. Wish is often disobedient, reckless, and wilful – wait a minute – that sounds familiar! And a huge disappointment to her rather scary mother.

The reader will predict that when these two meet in the forest amid mysterious pursuers and strange happenings, that fireworks will occur. They surely do but as the tale goes on, a strange bond of alliance is forged between these two sworn enemies.  Also predictably Witches, it seems, are not extinct but like a lot of Magic, hidden and biding their time.

From start to finish this is a gripping read with Cowell’s usual touches of real humour and absurdity throughout. Darker and edgier than the Dragon books though, there is a real sense of menace throughout.

An audio book is being recorded by David Tennant and movie rights have already been picked up so it’s safe to say this is going to be another winning and highly addictive series from this creative writer/illustrator.

Highly recommended for readers from around ten years upwards – perhaps with the lights on though!

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow– Jessica Townsend

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Hachette

October 2017

9780734418074 | RRP $16.99

When you receive a proof copy of an upcoming debut novel about which the publisher says stuff like ‘sold by eight-way auction’ and ‘film rights pre-empted’ you can assume it’s going to be a cracker.

And it is that indeed. Written by Jessica Townsend (Sunshine Coast! Yay!) this is going to be a phenomenon and garner readers from young to old.

Morrigan is a cursed child. These children have been born on the Eventide of a new age and their curse is to die on the next Eventide of a new age.  For all her almost-eleven years Morrigan has lived with the cruel rejection of everyone around her including her family. But things are about to change for her in the most spectacular way. Finding herself at Bid Day where children who have completed prep school are sought after by education bidders, to be trained up in whatever calling, Morrigan is startled to receive bids of her own. Who on earth would bid on a cursed child?

Before this puzzle can progress further, Eventide is upon her and so is one of the bidders.  The flamboyant and charismatic Jupiter North appears at her home and after much debate with her family, whisks her away in the nick of time as they are chased by the Hunt of Dark and Shadow pursuing Morrigan, in expectation of her death.  Jupiter’s rescue takes Morrigan to Nevermoor where she is, for the first time in her life, made to feel welcome by many (but not all) and that she could have a purpose.

She is set to work to pass the trials required to become a member of the Wunder Society and this is a fraught experience for her in many ways, but always with the support of new friends.  Not all is well though. The mysterious Mr Jones (another of her initial bidders) keeps appearing at random, other trial contenders are contemptuous of her lack of skill and a nasty law enforcement agent is determined to oust her on grounds of being an illegal immigrant.

This is filled with humour, charm, love, despair, spookiness and good fun. Although it took me a week to get through it that was only because I was so tired each night I only managed a few chapters at a time. In holiday time it would have been consumed in one go.

 I have already been promoting it to my readers from around ten years up and even my big girls in Book Club are keen to get their hands on it.

Be warned – this is going to be a ‘must have’ and you would do well to make sure it’s on your shopping list.

Highly recommended for all readers from middle primary upwards!

Goodly and Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap – Justine Windsor

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Harper Collins

ISBN: 9780008183530

Imprint: HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks

May 2017

Lucy Goodly has been won in a game of cards against the strange Lord Grave, despite the fact that she has a  magical card to help her win. Her parents are inveterate gamblers – unsuccessful ones at that – and this time they have lost their only child who is now to be the new boot girl at Grave Hall.

Lucy finds some weird characters at the Hall including the bearded cook Mrs Crawley and Vonk the butler but also discovers a new friend in Violet the little scullery maid. However, there are strange things happening at this grand estate with its grounds filled with exotic animals.

As Lucy tries her best to figure out a way to escape her circumstances, news reports of missing children are increasing and when Violet too goes missing, Lucy decides it’s time to act. Little does she know she’s about to become embroiled in a war of magic – good against evil – and she has a hard time figuring out which side is which.

Why is the Red Lady from whom Lucy ‘acquired’ her magic card locked away in a remote tower with a little boy and two of the missing children? And what has the odious Havoc, once an enchanted raven, have to do with it all?

This is number one in a new series which children from around ten years up will enjoy both for its mystery and its humour. Illustrated throughout by Becka Moor the reader will get a very clear idea of just how strange Grave Hall and its occupants are as well as satisfaction with justice well served.

Recommended for middle primary to early secondary readers.

Archie Green and the Alchemist’s Curse – D. D. Everest

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Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9780571307418

Publisher: Faber

Imprint: Faber Children Pb

Pub Date: August 2016

$14.99

 

Move over Harry, you have a rival for my affections! Somehow or other I missed the first book in this fabulous series (that will need to be redressed ASAP) but no matter, I was able to pick up the threads from the first well enough to thoroughly enjoy this volume.

And how could I possibly resist any magical story in which books and librarians feature so strongly? Well, that just wouldn’t happen at all!

Archie Greene found out he was from a magical family on his 12th birthday and since then he has been living with his aunt and uncle plus cousins in Oxford so that he can pursue his inherent apprenticeship working with magical books. Not only does he have a natural talent for the work which he is undertaking to learn but he has a rare gift. He is a book whisperer. He can hear and speak to books who often reveal secrets that others can have no hope of discovering.

When Archie’s younger cousin also embarks on his apprenticeship and steps up to receive his ‘fire mark’ from the mysterious Flame of Pharos which will denote his apprenticeship path, he and Archie as well as Bramble the older cousin surprisingly receive another mark. Two other apprentices also are branded in the same way. The five now carry the Golden Circle – the mark that has not been seen for 350 years and means that the children are the new ‘crop’ of original magic writers.  The whys and wherefores are the thread of the story and the plot untangles like a strange spell itself revealing hidden histories and uncovering truths.

D. D.Everest has provided readers with an alternate world which in every sense not only echoes the satisfaction we all had with HP books but at times eclipses this with highly original plot twists and characters.

I will be promoting this with vigour in my library just as soon as I can get hold of the first in the series. I predict that we may well need multiples as word spreads of the delights of this series.

Amazingly these are the author’s first forays into writing for children – check him out here.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards. Make sure you stock up!

Princess Betony and the Hobgoblin – Pamela Freeman/illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie

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ISBN: 9781921720260
Imprint: WALKER BOOKS AUST

July 2016

RRP $12.99

This is a series new to me (thank you so much to Walker Books for adding me to your reviewer list!!) and I think it is just delightful judging by this one.

Princess Betony is not exactly your average princess. She doesn’t much like wearing fussy dresses and being on show at state functions. She does however love digging in the garden and having adventures – especially when new friends are to be made!

Her father is the king and her mother, the Queen, is a dryad (the spirit of a willow tree) and Wild Magic is never far away. When sniffy Lady Pineal stops the kitchen staff from putting out milk for the hobgoblins (a short-sighted parsimony to regret), the resident garden hobgoblin takes umbrage and retaliates with the kind of mischief one expects from such a creature.

Much mayhem ensues but Princess Betony and the baker’s boy, Basil, know that the hobgoblin is not to blame. With the help of Rosie, the royal gardener, the hobgoblin problem is eventually resolved and once again humans and Wild Magic reach a harmonious agreement – for now, I suspect!

This is a perfect series for your girls looking to begin chapter books and would be super for quick read-alouds. And who could resist such sweet cover designs?

I will definitely be adding these to our Super Series for our younger primary girls.

Highly recommended for young readers from around 6 years upwards.

Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard – Geoffrey McSkimming

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ISBN: 9781760113384

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Imprint: A & U Children

Pub Date: June 2015

Page Extent:400

Format: Paperback

RRP $15.99

Here comes the indomitable Phyllis Wong again! Geoffrey McSkimming’s savvy young conjuror (who is also a superb mystery solver) is such a likeable character; no wonder then, that this series has taken off with so many young readers.

All the important characters from the earlier books including Phyllis’ trusty but eccentric sidekick, Clement and her pet police contact, Chief Inspector Barry Inglis, return along with some interesting new arrivals such as Orson Quilrose, procurer of antique and vintage photographs, and Detective Pinkie Chatterton (now there’s a familiar surname! I wonder…hmmmm).

In this new volume, Phyllis’ great-grandfather, the famous Wallace Wong, reappears in his Transiting travels and Phyllis learns of his special quest. For many decades WW has pursued the same mission, which is to discover the hidden refuge of Myrddin the most famous magician of all time. You may think if this wizard is so famed you might know his name – and you probably do, if we use one of the most well-known alternatives of Merlin.

Young Phyllis begins to piece together a quite remarkable history wherein her esteemed forebear mixes it up in the theatrical world with a very dubious and nasty ventriloquist, Alexander Sturdy. This latter is knocked off his perch by the debut of a rival, Hercule Perkus and his lifelike ‘dummy’ Jasper.

Revenge and long forgotten deeds come to the surface in a contemporary setting and the world at large is threatened by the villain Sturdy’s plans to sabotage an amazing development in technology.

With her customary aplomb, quick thinking and sharp judgements Miss Wong pieces together the disparate clues in the case and with the assistance of her friends and colleagues is once more placed to emerge triumphant.

This series is just delicious. Action, humour, a little reflection, excellent values – and good always trumps evil. I would highly recommend you adding this and the first two volumes to your collection if you have not already done so!! For capable readers of around 8/9 years and up.

And Oh My Goodness! just look at this!! From such a talented pair of creators!!

Magisterium: The Iron Trail (#1) – Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

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ISBN: 9780857532503
Published: 09/09/2014
Random House Australia
Imprint: Doubleday Childrens
Extent: 320 pages
RRP $22.99

Many readers will already know these two authors – Cassandra from her very successful Mortal Instruments series, and Holly from her equally successful Spiderwick Chronicles partnership.

Now these two have collaborated on the first in a new series which Harry Potter fans will no doubt eat up.  In fact, HP devotees will love to spot the similarities throughout the book I am sure.

Easy to read and a real page-turner, The Iron Trail takes us into the Magisterium, a facility for educating potential mages.

Callum Hunt (Call) is the son of mages with no inkling of his own magical ability, although at times strange things have happened around him. As a baby, Call’s mother died in an ambush by the Enemy, and Call survived, though with a badly damaged leg. When Call’s grieving father Alastair discovers his dead wife, surrounded by their dead comrades and discovered his baby son alive, he was struck by his wife’s mysterious last message scratched into the nearby rock – “Kill the child”.

When the kids of Call’s district reach a certain age, they are summoned to a testing day to assess their suitability for entry to the Magisterium. Call, having been warned all his life by this father to avoid magic, desperately wants to fail the tests – already marking him as the odd one out as all the other applicants just as earnestly want to be selected as Mages’ apprentices.

Call’s botching of the tests is spectacular and gives some indication of his latent powers, but he is not successful in avoiding selection. Master Rufus, most revered Mage, selects Tamara and Aaron the two highest scoring applicants – and Call, the lowest scoring as his new apprentices.

Despite initial hostility between the three apprentices, they forge a real bond with an understanding of each other and their strengths and weaknesses.

Amid the usual personality clashes of a new school  and the inevitable ‘stuck up’ kid, the usual nervous ones and as it turns out, the innocuous seeming boy who turns out to be anything but! Call navigates his way through his Iron Year and realises that his father’s warnings seem far away as he comes to appreciate what magic can achieve and how being accepted makes him feel.

There are undercurrents of secrecy as Master Rufus and Call’s father differ on the way to handle Call’s magical ability, with Call knowing less than most of the other kids about the history behind the Mages and their wars with the Enemy.

You can be sure of one thing. Call will turn out to be the ‘Chosen One’ and will no doubt be aided in whatever challenges lie ahead by his fellow apprentices.

One of our Year 6 students last week picked up the promo postcard from the Circ Desk and said excitedly, ‘Oh Miss, this is a GREAT book! I got it for my birthday and I read it straightaway! I can’t wait for the second one to come out!’. Not a bad recommendation, I’d say ;-),

Again I say, for those who need a HP type fix, this is the book to do it. I find it is darker and edgier with a little more real humour than those but there are definitely many many similarities.

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Phyllis Wong Mysteries– Geoffrey McSkimming

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http://phylliswong.com/

Quite a few years ago now, when I was teacher-librarian at a lovely Sunshine Coast hinterland school, and trying to engage more boys in reading for pleasure (an ongoing mission!), I was fortunate enough to host Geoffrey McSkimming aka Cairo Jim for an afternoon of fun and madcap inspiration. What a successful venture it was – boys were hounding me for months afterwards gobbling up the Cairo Jim series and more.

Now it is a real pleasure to review Geoffrey’s newest series with more unforgettable characters, fast-paced plots and a superlative dash of magic.

Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto

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ISBN: 9781742378213
Australian Pub.: August 2012
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children

RRP $14.99

Meet Phyllis Wong, great- granddaughter of the famous Wallace Wong (that great 1930s conjuror of stage and screen fame) herself a cannily adept magician. Phyllis lives in the beautiful Art Deco apartment block built by her fantastical forebear along with her Dad, Harvey, and a very smart fox terrier called Daisy. Her best friend Clement is an able foil and sometimes inept assistant for her adventures and the cast is rounded out by other inhabitants of the Wallace Wong Building, all of them rather unmistakeable and somewhat eccentric.

This first adventure begins with the distressed Mrs Lowerblast, proprietor of Lowerblast’s Antiques & Collectables Emporium (ground level Wallace Wong Building)  being terribly upset to discover the theft of a precious piece of Australiana pottery.  As things heat up a valuable diamond necklace also disappears, closely followed by a rare Picasso, without so much as the slightest hint of a human culprit being involved. Could it possibly be…well, ghosts? How can a valuable necklace – securely protected – just vanish into thin air as if by magic?  Ahh, as if by magic! – Phyllis Wong brings all her unusual powers of observation and thinking into play and combined with her expert knowledge of sleight-of-hand manages to reveal a very nasty criminal, helping out her friend and neighbour Chief Inspector Inglis.

Geoffrey’s skill with bringing characters to life on the page, his quirkiness with language and his ability to create a rollicking mystery laced with humour and cleverness never fails to impress.  Phyllis Wong lives in a very modern world, with all the gadgetry young readers are used to yet the story still retains the essential flavour of older style adventure-mysteries with their endless appeal, where Good always triumphs over Evil. The city in which she lives is skilfully anonymous enabling any reader to project themselves into the thick of the action with ease. Phyllis is a strong character being smart, resourceful and mature, with a fierce loyalty to her friends of all ages. With plenty to engage both boy and girl readers this will be a sure-fire hit with children aged around Upper Primary to Lower Secondary.

Watch the trailers here and here

Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror

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ISBN: 9781743318379
Australian Pub.: June 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Subject: Children’s fiction

RRP $14.99

The second of the Phyllis Wong Mysteries sees Phyllis, Clement and Chief Inspector Inglis caught up in a baffling case of rare Shakespearean published folios, which are suddenly appearing in auctions.  How can it be that such rare items as the First Folios of Shakespeare can almost flood the market, when so few of them have survived the centuries since they were first published?

Of course, if one could travel back in time and buy them firsthand and bring them back to the present day that would make perfect sense. But that is impossible – or is it?

Phyllis is astounded to meet her famous great-grandfather Wallace Wong when he travels through time and re-appears in his old basement of magical wonders, now Phyllis’ own workshop. Wallace shares with Phyllis the secret of ‘Transiting’ through strange Pockets in time and space, a skill he developed through his dedicated study of science, inspired by Einstein’s theories, as well as his own application of the mysteries of magic. This certainly explains Wallace’s strange disappearance in the middle of his act in Venezuela, back in 1936. And – importantly, explains how the nasty Mistress Colley is obtaining Shakespearean First Folios to sell for enormous profits.  Not exactly illegal, if somewhat unethical but when it becomes apparent that Mistress Colley intends to steal original manuscripts written by the Bard, it’s time for the resourceful Miss Wong to step in.

Phyllis, Clement and Chief Inspector Inglis know the only way to foil the plans of the loathsome Mistress Colley is to Transit back to The Globe and thwart her illicit designs.  As one might imagine, there is bemusement – and amusement – all round for obvious reasons when strangers appear and try to warn William Shakespeare. However, as with all satisfying adventure-mysteries, the action rolls on and the villain is stymied.

 

Another real page-turner (I read it in one sitting!) this second volume of Phyllis Wong certainly has me anticipating the next instalment.

Be sure not to miss out, put these on your shopping list – they are guaranteed to ‘vanish’ off the shelves rapidly!

Watch the book trailers here and here

Check out Phyllis’ Facebook page here