Reading, Listening & Watching

Upside-Down Magic

mlynowski, jenkins, myracle Mlynowski, Jenkins, and Myracle Mlynowski, Jenkins, and Myracle

Have you ever encountered a… bitten (i.e. a beaver-kitten)? How about a flamitten/kittengo? That’s a flamingo-kitten, if you didn’t already know. Or a koat? (A goat-kitten.) No? You’re missing out! Let me tell you: Nory Horace turns into all of these fantastic beasts (and more), and you know where you can find her and others (un)like her? In the Upside-Down Magic series by Sarah Mlynowski, Emily Jenkins, and Lauren Myracle! These three authors, each with a flurry of much-loved books under their belts, have combined their writing powers – much like Nory combines different animals in her transformations – to create this magical world filled with kids who have wonky – we don’t say wonky – different magical powers, who don’t quite fit in because of their abilities. And for Nory Horace, whose father is the principal of a prestigious magic school, her upside-down magic is worse than frustrating, because to her father, it’s downright embarrassing. And her father has the power to make things disappear: his room, the objects in the room… Nory. Granted, he doesn’t flux her away, sending her to live with Aunt Margo, but he might as well have done, as far as Nory is concerned! Sent away from her home and her siblings, Nory is more than a bit upset about being put into the Upside-Down Magic class at Dunwiddle, but the more time she spends with her classmates, the more she realizes how the UDM class could be something other than a punishment: it could give her the chance to improve her magic!

It’s pretty obvious this entire series is telling us to be more accepting of those who are different from ourselves, as well as the dangers of pigeonholing people, but – and this is a feat in and of itself – it never comes across as overdone. You never feel like it’s shoving morality down your throat or feel like gagging at saccharine friendships, and each of the characters is as flawed as they are fully fleshed out. There’s definitely at least one character in the novels that you can relate to, and as each of them give up more of their insecurities to your scrutiny, you end up falling in love with all of them. (Maybe not Lacey, though. Not yet.*) And in case that isn’t enough to sway you: there is so much diversity here in this series, from children of colour to kids with disabilities, that it’s actually incredibly heartening. The first book left me with a couple of quibbles, but from the second book onwards, it was clear the authors had sorted it out, which was really great to see! The series is at 3 books right now, the latest one being published this year, and I’m excited to see what will happen next!

Upside-Down Magic is currently available as a book (#1, #2, and #3), an audiobook (#1 only), as well as an e-audiobook (#1, #2, and #3). Fans of Mlynowski (of Whatever Ever After fame), Jenkins (A Greyhound, a GroundhogThat New Animal; among many others), and Myracle (Life of Ty, Internet Girls (e.g. L8R G8R, TTYL), and more) will definitely want to check this series out if they haven’t already done so!

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Can A Robot Survive in the Wild?

The Wild Robot CoverPeter Brown is the author and illustrator of some wonderful picture books, but The Wild Robot is his first novel. It’s the charming and thought-provoking story of a robot who is stranded on an island inhabited only by animals when the cargo ship carrying her and hundreds of other units is wrecked in a storm. ROZZUM unit 7134 (Roz) is the only “survivor”.

Roz has no idea how she came to live on the island, as she has no memory of anything before she is activated by some curious otters. But she is programmed to do whatever it takes keep herself in working order. And that means adapting to her surroundings—fast!

The otters are not the only wild animals curious about Roz—but they are also frightened of her. After all, she is big, and shiny, and different. So at first they keep their distance. But Roz observes the animals, and quickly learns the unique ways each species is suited to the environment. In this way, Roz learns how to survive in the wilderness herself. When she rescues an egg and begins to raise the gosling as her own, the other animals slowly realize that Roz is not a monster after all. Roz is happy (well, as happy as a robot without feelings can be!) to live out her days on the island—but what will happen when a salvage ship comes looking for the lost robot cargo?

This book is perfect for readers age 8-12, or as a read aloud for even younger children. The chapters are short, the story well-written, and the book features some lovely, simple black and white illustrations. If you enjoy adventure stories, animal stories, or robot stories, you will enjoy this book.

Don’ t miss these other books by Peter Brown:

My Teacher Is A Monster (No I Am Not) Cover  Children Make Terrible Pets Cover  Mr. Tiger Goes Wild Cover  You Will Be My Friend Cover

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