Guest Review: Magyk by Angie Sage


Guest Reviewer: Grace, UCF Elementary Education Student

Magyk (Septimus Heap Book One)
Author: Angie Sage
Published March 2nd, 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: The first part of this enthralling new series leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters, clever charms, potions and spells, and a yearning to uncover the mystery at the heart of this story…who is Septimus Heap?

The 7th son of the 7th son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son, Septimus?

Angie Sage writes in the tradition of great British storytellers. Her inventive fantasy is filled with humor and heart: Magyk will have readers laughing and begging for more.

About the Author: Angie Sage began her career illustrating books, and then started writing – first toddler books, later chapter books and then the masterful Septimus Heap. She lives in a fifteenth-century house in Somerset. She has two grown-up daughters.

Review: Magyk is an interesting fantasy adventure that provides children an alternative to the increasingly controversial Harry Potter series. It has themes of wizardry/magic and adventure and focuses on a small group of young characters that age throughout the series.

Magyk and the rest of the Septimus Heap series promotes gender equality as it has several strong female characters and shows women in positions of power without questioning from other characters. In addition, this book and its series promote friendships between characters not only of different genders but of different backgrounds and races.

This book also has strong themes of found-family as well as other complicated family relationships that can be comforting to children without a more traditional nuclear family structure. One of the main characters, Jenna, has been adopted and struggles with her relationships with her non-adopted siblings. This is explored further in later books in the series when she meets her biological father and learns the identity of her birth mother.

The series associated with Magyk grows with its reader as Septimus, the main character, ages throughout the series. The books introduce increasingly mature themes over time, introducing readers to new ideas as they are ready for them.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book touches upon the idea of found family. This theme could be implemented in the classroom to help students better understand the importance of relationships between themselves and those around them. Highlighting the importance of the people we surround ourselves with and the aid they can provide is an important lesson to learn as it gives us strength to go about our day.

This book also teaches students to trust themselves and bare more responsibility as time goes by. Throughout the book, the characters discover that true power comes from themselves. It is only by trusting themselves and working hard that can they achieve their goals. This teaches students the importance of a good work ethic and how you have to work in order to achieve your goals. By adding additional responsibilities to characters throughout the book you can see how their wants and needs change over time however, this does not take away from the goals and aspirations they want to achieve.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Although Jenna is not related to the Heaps by blood she is raised as their daughter. How does Jenna’s relationship with her parents differ from that of her “siblings”?
  • Boy 412 and Jenna both have complicated pasts. How does their relationship change throughout the book as they learn more about themselves and each other?
  • How does Boy 412 relationships with others vary compared to how other children in the book make relationships?
  • How do the circumstances in which Jenna and Boy 412 discover their identities vary? How does this affect how they react to the news?
  • Boy 412 was raised in a militaristic environment, how does this shape the person he has become? If he was raised in a different environment do you think his personality would be different?
  • How do Marcia, Sarah, Zelda, and Silas treat the children differently? Why do you believe they have such different approaches?

Flagged Passages: 

“Oh it’s a pebble… But it’s a really nice pebble Dad thanks.”

Read This If You Love: Books about witches/wizards, Books that age with you

Recommended For: 


Thank you, Grace, for your review!!


Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat


Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings!
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Dan Santat

Summary: This funny, original choose-your-path picture book of fractured fairy tales will charm any young fan of the genre, putting the power of storytelling right in the reader’s hands!

Grab your basket and your coat. Put on some walking shoes.
Turn the page and begin: Which story will you choose?

Award-winning creators Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat transform a crowd of classic tales into an ever-changing, fascinating, laugh-out-loud choose-your-path picture book, in which you may find a sleeping maiden, waste away in a sticky licorice cage, discover the gold at the end of a wild goose chase, or maybe (just maybe) save yourself―and the day!

GIVES YOUNG READERS THE POWER OF CHOICE: Where do you want to take the story next? Choice and autonomy are essential concepts for children to learn at a young age, and this choose-your-path picture book puts the decision-making power right in their hands.

FUNNY TWISTS ON CLASSIC FAIRY TALES: “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and more—characters and settings from these classic fairy tales take on hilarious new life in a brand-new story, just right for the youngest fairy tale fans.

TEACHES STORYTELLING BY EXAMPLE: This playful picture book offers young readers the chance to build their own narratives out of the decisions they make each step of the way, powerfully illustrating how a story is created and how it proceeds from beginning to middle to end. Both a teaching tool and an exciting adventure in its own right, this book is a great resource for learning storytelling.

FABULOUS AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR TEAM: Laurel Snyder is the author of the Geisel Award–winning Charlie & Mouse early chapter book series. Her books have earned numerous starred reviews and Best Book designations, and her middle grade novel Orphan Island was longlisted for the National Book Award. Acclaimed artist Dan Santat has illustrated over 50 books for children, earning a Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Adventures of Beekle and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Drawn Together.

Perfect for:

  • Teachers and librarians
  • Lovers of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings
  • Readers who enjoy choose-your-path stories
  • Parents and caregivers seeking a story that will continue to surprise and delight, even after the 100th time through
  • Gift-givers looking for a beautiful present that can be read again and again
  • Anyone who appreciates clever, hilarious takes on classic fairy tales


“Invoking myriad fairy tale scenarios throughout a cascading choose-one’s-path format, Snyder (the Charlie and Mouse series) builds a fairy story with logic gates. . . . Santat (The Aquanaut) romps lushly through this fairy tale universe, giving the folklore mainstays . . . an exaggerated, kinetic quality. . . . Readers accustomed to video game–style endings won’t be bothered by Rosie’s many demises; turning the page resumes the action and leads to more choices, and employing frenetic action right through to the end—er, ends.”
Publishers Weekly

“Grab your favorite outerwear (cozy coat or riding hood?) and your sense of adventure because Snyder and Santat have created a fun-filled fairy-tale mashup that puts kids in the driver’s seat. . . . [Endlessly Ever After’s] interactive nature, large trim size, and bold, full-bleed illustrations make it an excellent candidate for group sharing. There is also a fractured-fairy tale aspect to the stories featured, which ensures there are surprises around every corner. A highly entertaining read, full of possibilities.”
Booklist Reviews

“Multiple reader options give the woodsy road to Grandma’s house any number of surprise twists and diversions. . . . Some choices are hard but not this one: Pick it up!”
Kirkus Reviews

“[G]et comfortable; kids will insist on multiple readings . . . The humorously grim text is well matched with amusing illustrations that keep even the darker story elements lighthearted . . . Both text and art are endlessly clever.”
The Horn Book Magazine

About the Creators: 

Laurel Snyder is the author of many children’s books, including Swan, Hungry Jim, and Charlie & Mouse, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. A graduate of the Iowa Writers? Workshop, Laurel teaches creative writing at Hamline University and lives with her family in Atlanta, GA.

Dan Santat is a Caldecott-Medal-winning author-illustrator of many children’s books. An honors graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena, he is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

Review: Jim and I were just telling Trent about Choose Your Own Adventure books when this arrived, so I was very excited to see this book arrive, and it does not disappoint. If anything, it blew my description of the original series out of the water because of its cleverness, humor, suspense, fairy tale fracturing, and brilliant illustrations.

Snyder and Santat were the perfect team for this book! Snyder’s writing is lyrical and has amazing rhythm which makes the book a delight to read aloud. She also adds perfect twists to well known stories, giving them a new life! I was always so impressed at an author who can craft a book with multiple paths because the actual text structure must be so complicated, and there is no room for flaws; Snyder shows that she has the chops for this! Santat’s art brings it to life through modernized illustrations of our favorite fairy tale characters as well as some new characters, and as always his art is brilliantly crafted and just so much fun to look at!

All in all, a must pick up for any person who reads aloud to students–these 85 pages of adventure will reel them in!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to some reading analyses that will work perfectly with the text (prediction, cause/effect relationships, etc.), I would also love to see students work to create their own choose your own adventure stories. It gives them a chance to problem solve how to structure the story in addition to write the story. Chronicle’s activity kit has a great start for this activity.

Activity Kit: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Endlessly Ever After compare to the original fairy tales?
  • What other fairy tale would you have liked to see get twisted in?
  • Were there any indications of the effects of your decisions before you chose what Rosie should do?
  • Before choosing the next page, predict what you think is going to happen.
  • How did the choice of illustrator add to the experience of reading the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Fractured Fairy Tales

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!!**

Once Upon a Forest by Pam Fong


Once Upon a Forest
Author and Illustrator: Pam Fong
Publication: February 8, 2021 by Random House

Goodreads Summary: This gorgeous picture book follows a helpful marmot working to save a forest recovering after a wildfire. Perfect for teaching children to practice kindness while developing an appreciation for animals and the earth.

After a fire leaves the forest smoldering, a determined marmot and her resourceful bird friend set off on a rescue mission in this beautifully illustrated, wordless story. They clear away fallen branches and scorched bushes. They rake and dig and plant new seedlings in the earth. With determination and ingenuity, as the seasons pass, they care for the little trees by making sure they have enough water, protect their branches from the wind and snow, and keep away hungry creatures, until the trees can thrive on their own.

With a little time, care, and hope we all can help the earth.

My Review: This summer and the last, our state of Colorado was cloaked in smoke. My youngest struggled to understand what was happening and why we had to stay indoors. It was even worse in California, as a whole. Wildfires are, unfortunately, something we are going to have to get used to. This book offers a beautiful, positive look at wildfires. The book focuses less on the wildfire and more on the actions of the marmot and a bird. They don’t dwell in the wildfire’s damage—they take the opportunity to plant new life. I love this book, and it is one that will stick in my heart forever. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be well-paired with nonfiction articles about wildfires–how to prevent them and what to do after they happen. I would also love to use this book on Earth Day.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the illustrator use color to enhance the story?
  • What do the marmot and bird do when the trees are damaged?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe the marmot and bird?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love:  Journey by Aaron Becker, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell, The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett, Explorers by Matthew Cordell

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for sending a copy for review!**

Sofia’s (and Fjola’s) Kids’ Corner: Best Nerds Forever by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein


Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

This week, Sofia is joined by her friend Fjola to write an incredible collaborative review!

Dear readers,

Today I will be Introducing you to one of my favorite books! Drumroll please… Best Nerds
Forever by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. I am in a book club with a book loving
secretary in my school and one of my friends, Fjola. Fjola has actually helped me write this book
review! I am mentioning them because this was one of the amazing books that we read
together! Another book that was in the book club was Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by
Stuart Gibbs! The moral of this story is not to waste your life and that fear is the biggest enemy.
Live a little! This book is for ages 9-14 years.

Finn McAllister is a very timid boy because his parents are always telling him not to take risks
and to be careful, so Finn really feels like he is doing nothing. At the beginning of the book Finn
passes away by accidentally riding his bike off of a cliff because he was being chased by a big
black van. He becomes a ghost and it is really hard for him to see all of his friends and family
mourning his death. Finn notices that he can pass through people, teleport and fly. But when his
dead grandpa comes to take him to the other side Finn declines, realizing that he has some
unfinished business to complete. While exploring his town, he meets the ghost of a girl named
Isabella Rojas. She went missing four months ago and her dead body has not been recovered
yet. Finn knows she must have some unfinished business so he asks her how she died and
what things she has to do. Isabella says she can’t remember so Finn helps her try to remember
so she can finish her unfinished business. So then they can cross over to the other world
together when he is finished with his business which is tracking down his killer.

We love this book because of the moments that Finn takes to realize what he should have done
when he was alive. This book circles around the idea that you need to live your life to the fullest
content and that sometimes, fear is your greatest enemy. We both believe that this is something
important to learn. Fjola loves the evolution of friendship between Isabella and Finn, and I
especially love the comedy. Enjoy!

and Fjola!!!

**Thanks so much, Sofia and Fjola, for this amazing collaborative review!

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger


Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

I would like to introduce you to…Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger! My friend Fjola lent me this book and said it was amazing so of course I started reading it straight away! I loved the book so much! This is definitely a MUST READ for everybody! This is one of the last books that I read last year andI think this might have been my favorite book of 2021! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Sophie is a misfit. She is incredibly intelligent and at age twelve she has already skipped multiple grades. Sophie doesn’t really fit in at home either. Her entire family consists of red heads and is just different from her. Sometimes Sophie feels that they adopted her but they assure her they didn’t. Life is still far from normal but, one day, she goes with her 12th grade class to a museum and because she is bored she wanders off. While she is looking at all of the exhibits she sees a strange boy. He pulls her aside and tells her she is an elf. She does not believe him at first because, if somebody tells you you were an elf would you believe them or think they were crazy? Thought so. Anyway, the boy says his name is Fitz and he tells her that she can read minds and that she was a telepath. Sophie believes him because she knows she can read minds.

Fitz teleports her to a different dimension, the dimension of the elves. Everything is covered in gems and it looks super fancy. Fitz’s dad, Alden, tells Sophie that she needs to move to the elvin world because by staying in the human one she is putting her “family” in danger. So Sophie agrees but tells the elves they have to brainwash her family so they do not know that they ever had Sophie. Sophie does this so they do not go through any pain. Through the book Sophie meets new friends and makes new enemies. In this book you will be able to follow Sophie through her exciting adventures…

I love this book because it is so exciting and super adventurous. This is the first book in an amazing series! I am currently on the third book. There is never a dull moment in this book. You will find yourself reading the series like a lightning bolt because it is sooooooo good! I feel like my life would not be complete without having read this book. This is a MUST READ! I still can not emphasize enough how good this book is! This book is also funny! If you have been following my reviews for a while, then you will know that I love books with some comedy in them. I highly recommend reading the rest of the books in the series! I hope you have fun reading this!

**Thanks so much, Sofia! It seems like this book is a great adventure for readers!**


Tidesong by Wendy Xu


Author and Illustrator: Wendy Xu
Published November 16, 2021 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: Perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and The Tea Dragon Society, this is a magically heartwarming graphic novel about self-acceptance and friendship.

Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy–the best magic school in the realm–even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.

Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.

Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t–beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?

* Featured on the Today Show * An SLJ Best Book of the Year * A Nerdist Best Comic of the Year * A BookRiot Best Book of the Year *

About the Author: Wendy Xu is a bestselling, award-nominated Brooklyn-based illustrator and comics artist.

She is the creator of the middle grade fantasy graphic novel TIDESONG (2021 from HarperCollins/Quilltree) and co-creator of MOONCAKES, a young adult fantasy graphic novel published in 2019 from Oni Press. Her work has been featured on Catapult, Barnes & Noble Sci-fi/Fantasy Blog, and, among other places.

You can find more art on her Instagram: @artofwendyxu or on twitter: @angrygirLcomics

Review: Whenever I read that something is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli, I get skeptical because Studio Ghibli’s work is just so magical; however, I had no reason to worry when it came to Tidesong. I can see why the publisher compares it to the Studio’s work–it is similarly illustrated (but with a Wendy Xu touch, which I love!), colorful, magical, and has that little extra sense of whimsy that’s hard to describe that I love in fantastical stories.

Sophie is such a great character, too! She represents so many who want to meet the expectations of those around her and whose positivity is crushing under that pressure. And Lir doesn’t seem like he will help her because he is PERFECT, but as we know, you can’t judge people without actually getting to know them.

What a fun and meaningful graphic novel–it is a favorite, and I am so excited to share it with students!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be in my school library, and it should be in yours, too! (Or your classroom library or public library!) Your fantasy/magical loving readers will devour this!

Discussion Questions

  • Why does Sophie not feel confident in her magic?
  • Why is Sophie forced to move to her great aunt’s house?
  • How does Lir make Sophie feel? How does Lir change the narrative of the story?
  • What was your first impression of Sophie’s great aunt? What do we learn about her that changes that impression?
  • How did Sage and Great Aunt Lan differ in their welcoming of Sophie?
  • Why is this graphic novel compared to Studio Ghibli?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux, Jukebox by Nidhi Chanani, Long Distance by Whitney Gardner, Little Witch Academia by Yoh Yoshinari, This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to SparkPoint Studio for providing a copy for review!**

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs


Sofia is a 10-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer, who started with us when she was 8 years old. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

When I saw this book I was immediately hooked to it and got it straight away. It turned out I was right and the book was amazing! Everybody, get ready for…Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs! This is a book that is action-packed and super fun at the same time! This book is recommended for ages 10+.

Charlie is a child genius. She is a stubborn one, but still a child genius.  A couple of decades before the story takes place Albert Einstein hides a precious equation, called Pandora, which would make the building of bombs far easier. Albert knew that humanity was not ready for this equation because if it got into the wrong hands, the world could, and probably would, be destroyed. As you might have guessed, all of the spy organizations in every country are looking for it. When the CIA finds Charlie, they ask her to join their team and she says yes. They tell her that a group of terrorists is focused on getting the equation, and they need Charlie to find Pandora before them.

I love this book so much because of the feeling of mystery. I have always liked mystery books. While reading this book I was thinking a lot about finding Pandora, and it was really fun to piece the clues together. Happy deducting!

**Thanks so much, Sofia! We love books that incorporate interdisciplinary subjects like math!**