Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Currently Reading... Spells & Sleeping Bags

Spells & Sleeping Bags by Sarah Mlynowski is the third in the "Magic in Manhattan" series. There's also a fourth one--Parties & Potions--out in hardback, but I haven't read it yet. Mlynowski's books are entertaining and delightful. Written in first person present, they tell the story of Rachel, a 14-year-old girl whose 12-year-old sister is a witch. Their mom is a witch, too, it turns out--though a non-practicing one. Mostly. In the first book, Bras & Broomsticks, it appears that Rachel has not inherited the family "gift". However, Miri is usually willing to use her magic to help her older sister, which results in some hilarious predicaments. At the end of the second book, Frogs & French Kisses, Rachel is overjoyed to learn that she is a witch after all! In Spells & Sleeping Bags, the girls are off to summer camp, and there's no time to train Rachel. Mom forbids her to practice witchcraft at camp since she's not really in control of her powers yet, but do you think Rachel listens? Of course not! Rachel tries to use magic to solve her problems, and gets into some awkward situations. She's also having trouble with her crush, Raf. He seems to be crazy about her--so why won't he kiss her? Despite these challenges, Rachel loves camp. But the fun appears to be over when Liana, the "mean girl" who's been stealing Rachel's friends, turns out to be a a witch-- and Rachel's and Miri's estranged cousin. Liana forces Rachel to exchange psyches with her. Can Rachel convince Miri of her true identity and make Liana trade back--or is Rachel doomed to be separated from the people she loves forever?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Currently Reading... Charlie Bone and the Shadow

Charlie Bone is a young boy with a gift: he can hear the voices of people in photographs. Sometimes he can even enter into a photo, traveling to the time and place where it was taken. When his gift is discovered, Charlie is sent to Bloor's Academy, a school for children who are talented in music, drama, or the visual arts--and a select few with extraordinary talents like Charlie's.

Jenny Nimmo's "Children of the Red King" books contain all the elements I look for in middle grade fantasy: magic that is grounded in the real world, page-turning adventures, intriguing settings, and memorable characters--like Charlie's malevolent grandmother, Grandma Bone; Charlie's school friends, each with a distinctive personality and a unique gift; neighbor Benjamin Brown and his dog Runner Bean; mysterious Mr. Onimous and the three Flame Cats; and Uncle Paton, with his gift/curse of exploding light bulbs.

Charlie Bone and the Shadow is the seventh book in the "Children of the Red King" series. I've just started it, and it looks like it's going to be every bit as good as the previous six!