Guest Review: Magyk by Angie Sage

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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: 

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Thank you, Grace, for your review!!

 

Tidesong by Wendy Xu

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Tidesong
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 Tor.com, 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: 

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

Blog Tour!: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

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The Troubled Girls of Dragomire Academy
Author: Anne Ursu
Published October 12, 2021 by Walden Pond Press
Happy book birthday!! 🎉

Summary: If no one notices Marya Lupu, it’s likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: Luka is destined to become a sorcerer.

The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in Illyria may possess the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread. For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy — a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself — things that threaten the precarious balance upon which their country is built.

Praise:

A wonderful and inspiring feminist fantasy.” – Kirkus, starred review

“An accessible, timely school story with a rather Transylvanian flavor to its fantasy setting. Ursu explores girls’ conditioning in timidity and shame in a male-dominated world and, ultimately, envisions a hopeful, female-determined future of magical ability.” – Horn Book Magazine

“A suspenseful tale woven with secrets and magic, with a gasp-worthy twist at the end, The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is everything I love about fantasy. Spell-binding.” – Christina Soontornvat, Newbery Honor-winning author of A Wish in the Dark

“Anne Ursu practices her own brand of sorcery—the ability to craft wondrous, magical stories that are unlike anything you’ve ever read. Another extraordinary tale from a remarkably talented author.” – Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal-winning author of Hello, Universe

“A thoughtful and incisive story of lies told to control people and the complicated girls who ask questions, push back, and keep fighting.” – Tui Sutherland, New York Times-bestselling author of the Wings of Fire series

“It’s no secret that Anne Ursu is a gifted storyteller. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is intricately plotted and compulsively readable, with characters who will stay with you long after you stop reading. I could not put it down.” – Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy manages the particular magic of being both a true fantasy novel and a clear-eyed reflection of the here-and-now. Bighearted, generous, and outstandingly original, this is a story only Anne Ursu could write.”- Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of The House That Wasn’t There

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of the acclaimed novels The Lost Girl, Breadcrumbs, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. The recipient of a McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, Anne is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Review: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

This book is a loud cry for all the times females have been told they were trouble or too loud or had too many opinions or talked too much or asks too many questions or is too bossy or… or… or… Because of the patriarichal nature of our society, many girls will hear these thrown at them over and over again because in society’s eyes, it is our job to comply. Marya lives in a society that her job is to not only comply but to also fade into the background, so many of those who read will automatically connect with Marya’s plight and her personality trait of wanting to push back. Marya doesn’t want to just be in the background.

I do not want to share much more about the book than what the summary includes because it was such a pleasure to read–I am envious of all of you who get to read it for the first time! Anne Ursu’s ability to craft a fantastical world that is easy to imagine, write lyrically yet precisely, and create this narrative filled with twists, turns, and a protagonist you will be rooting for lends itself to just a fantastic read. This will definitely be one of my favorite reads of the year!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Walden Pond Press has shared a teacher-created educator guide with discussion questions, classroom activities, and extensions!

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1: The Girl in the Coop

There were few women pictured in the great tapestries of Illyria–besides the witches, of course. The tapestries depicted moments of heoism, epic battles of good and evil, of powerful sorcerers and brave noblemen protecting the kingdom from the monsters that had threatened it through its history.

That is not to say that girls and women did not matter to Illyria: behind every great tapestry was a woman who wove it, just as behind every great sorcerer was a wife to tend to his domestic affairs, a governess to teach his children, a cook to warm his gullet, a maid to keep his fires lit.

And behind every boy who dreamed of being a sorcerer was a mother who raised him to be brave, noble, and kind. And perhaps that boy even had a sister, who right before the Council for the Magical Protection of Illyria finally visited his humble home to test him for magical gift, made sure the chicken coop was clean.

Read This If You Love: Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne MorrellRaybearers by Jordan Ifueko, A Tale of Magic by Chris Colfer, The Spinner of Dreams by K.A. Reynolds, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

Recommended For: 

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Other Blog Tour Stops:

October 12 A Nerdy Bibliophile in Wanderlust
October 13 Read Wonder
October 14 Nerdy Book Club
October 15 A Library Mama
October 16 Maria’s Mélange
October 17 By Singing Light
October 18 Bluestocking Thinking
October 20 Insatiable Readers

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share 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,

This book is entertaining for ages young and old and is very sweet. It is called…The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds! This picture book has been recommended to me by my little sister and she loves the illustrations. I do too. I recommend this book to teachers and parents for read alouds for any age.

I am going to tell you what my family thinks about this book. My sister says “I love everything about this book!” My dad says “It’s a good book!”(Translated out of my dad’s language that means amazeballs!) My mom says “This book is beautiful beyond words!” And I think it definitely deserves a review!

Jerome collects words. Some words catch his interest. Some are multi-syllable while some have only one syllable. Jerome writes these words on tiny scraps of paper and sticks those scraps into the fitting book for the word. For example, the word Peru would go in a book called Geography. But one day Jerome slips and his words get mixed up! After that he sees words in a different way. He makes poems and songs with his words and they delight people.

I love this book because it teaches wonderful lessons. For example the book teaches that small nice words can make people’s day. I also like this book because of its eye catching illustrations. The illustrations are by the author, Peter H. Reynolds, and I think he did a quite lovely job. Happy reading!

If you love the lessons this book teaches, the wonderful illustrations and are just wanting to get another of Peter H. Reynolds books, then I definitely recommend The Dot by him.

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Front Desk by Kelly Yang

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share 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 am going to recommend a book about an amazing girl who went through a lot of hard times and stayed brave. This amazing book is called Front Desk by Kelly Yang. This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Mia is an immigrant from China and moves to America. She lives in a car for some time while her parents look for jobs. They see an ad in the newspapers saying there is a motel owner looking for an experienced motel manager. The ad says that the owner of a little motel in Anaheim, California is looking for someone to run the place. Mia’s parents jump at the chance and they get hired. They would also get paid a lot of money while doing it! Mia makes amazing friendships with customers and when she thinks nothing can go wrong the owner whose name is Mr. Yao lowers their pay. That means that there isn’t much money they are getting and that is bad. When Mia starts going to school more problems pop up. Like a girl named Lupe. She is Mia’s friend and Mia thinks it is because she told her she lives in a big house and has a golden retriever but none of that is true. It gets even worse when she realizes that the motel owner’s  son is in her class. The thing is the son is not exactly nice to her.

One person loses a job because of Mr. Yao and can not pay to stay in Mr. Yao’s motel anymore so Mr. Yao tells him to go. That person is one of Mia’s best friends and Mia hides him inside of the motel. Soon Mia’s immigrant relatives start coming and stay for free. Will Mr. Yao find them and kick them out or will Mia and her family keep the immigrants hidden from him?

There is so much more to this story but you have to read it for yourself.

I love this book because of all the suspense it gave me reading it. So many times I guessed the wrong thing that would happen next. I also love this book because it also really pulled me into the story. My parents could even listen to music and I wouldn’t even hear it! I also had that book with me everywhere I went. My parents almost couldn’t convince me for a bike ride, one of my favorite things! I hope you get as wound up in the book as I did!!

If this book leads you to want to know more of her story then check out the sequel called Three Keys! I have not read it yet but it is definitely on my Need To Read!!!!! list.

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

 

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: My Favorite Books by Roald Dahl

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share 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 have again decided to change things up a bit. This time I will be recommending several books by the same author. His name is Roald Dahl. I haven’t read many of his books, but the ones that I have read were truly amazing. They make great read-alouds, too. I recommend the books that I am covering in this review for about ages 7-12.

The first time I heard about this author’s creations was when my first grade teacher read my class Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, probably Roald Dahl’s most famous book. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about a poor boy named Charlie Bucket who walks past Willy Wonka’s

factory on his way to school. Charlie always stops and sniffs the amazing smells of Wonka’s factory for he only gets one candy bar per year and that is on his birthday. That singular bar he gets on his birthday, he saves by nibbling little by little off each day. When Willy Wonka announces in the newspaper that five, only five, of his Wonka bars have a golden ticket inside that will get five lucky kids into the factory, everybody goes crazy about buying Wonka bars. It seems unlikely for Charlie to get the Golden Ticket but who knows, maybe he will be lucky…

I was very excited when my friend visited and gave me a collection of most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. She even recommended Matilda which is now one of my favorite books by him. Matilda is about a girl named Matilda who loves to read and is super smart. Matilda’s parents are mean and force her to watch television when she would rather be reading a book, so she puts up a secret policy of her own… When Matilda is finally old enough to go to school she meets her nice teacher Miss Honey and her terrible principal Miss Trunchbull. Matilda is the smartest kid in her class because she reads so many books. Miss Honey is fascinated by Matilda’s knowledge and likes that she does not brag about it.

This book was so good I decided to read it to my four year old sister. Introducing Fantastic Mr Fox! Fantastic Mr Fox is about a father fox and his family. When it gets dark the father fox always carefully slips out of his home to steal some food from three mean farmers. Their names are Bean, Bunce and Boggis and they all run their own type of farm. They are very mean and know that he is stealing their stuff and are furious about it. They make plans to catch him, but none of them have worked so far. Can they do it or will Mr Fox outfox them?

The book that I am about to present to you is one that I read with my friend for a sort of book club. Presenting The Witches! The Witches is about a boy who has a grandma who tells stories about witches. She tells him always to be on the lookout for them because they can kill you and eat you. She tells him a few things that witches always have. First, a real witch is certain to have gloves. Second, a real witch is always bald but wears a wig that usually itches. Third, a real witch has slightly bigger nostrils. Fourth, a real witch has different eyes than normal people because where we have a black dot in the middle of our eye theirs change color all the time. There are more ways to identify a witch, but you need to read the book to find out. The grandma says that there is a Grand High Witch which is basically the queen of all witches. She is the meanest of all the witches and all of the witches are petrified of her. When the boy comes out to climb a tree one time, a strange lady suddenly appears under the tree and tells him to come down. The boy suddenly sees she has all the characteristics of a witch and starts to climb higher. Will the witch get him or will he escape?

This book must be popular among my teachers because after I read it my teacher read it, too. A perfectly magical book called The Magic Finger! The Magic Finger is about a girl who has a finger that shoots some sort of magic when someone makes her mad. Her neighbors have a habit of hunting and the girl doesn’t like them doing it. She thinks that it doesn’t seem right to kill animals just for the fun of it. The girl can’t help it, she puts the magic finger on them all, even the wife that does not hunt. Sorry, but you have to read the book to find out what happens to them.

In case it is not obvious why I like these books, it is because Roald Dahl is a great storyteller and his books are bursting with fantasy and crazy ideas. If you want to learn about the author, I highly recommend a book called Who was Roald Dahl? by True Kelly.

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

 

Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share 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,

Hi! Are you searching for a book that makes you sad and happy at the same time? Then The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill would be a good choice. This book has gotten a Newbery Medal. It is recommended for ages 10-14 on Amazon, but I think an eight or nine year old that is good at reading could read it too.

In the woods lives a witch called Xan. She is nice, but the people of the Protectorate think she will bring harm to their town. Every year the Protectorate takes the youngest baby in the town and puts it in a big stone circle in the woods. The Grand Elders (the mayors) never thought there was a witch and thought the baby was going to be eaten by animals. They are not correct because every year Xan comes to the stone circle and takes the baby to a welcoming city called a Free City.

They call the child that Xan brings a Star Child and treat the day she comes like a holiday. Xan feeds the babies starlight while she carries them to a Free City. One time though she accidentally feeds a baby moon light by which she enmagicks her. This is a quote from the book: “There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like.” Xan decides she cannot leave this baby with an ordinary person, so she decides to raise her as her own and names her Luna.

Antain is a boy of the Protectorate and an “Elder in training” when this book starts and grows older. As he grows older he decides not to be an Elder, instead he becomes a well known carpenter. He gets married and this time his wife’s baby is the youngest in the Protectorate and it is getting close to the day they take the baby away from them…This book is told from several different points of view. For example: Xan, the kind witch, Luna, Xan’s child, and a Protectorate mother.

I love this book so much because it teaches that if you haven’t met a person you can’t really say anything about them even if you are pretty sure it’s true. I also like this book because of a dragon that thinks he is really big even though he is the smallest thing ever.

This year before the coronavirus I was walking through our school library and saw this book. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I am kind of sad and kind of glad about that because later in the year I looked at what it was about on Amazon and decided to buy it with my pocket money. It was a great purchase.

I am excited to check out this other book by the same author called The Witch’s Boy. I hope it is as good as The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Enjoy!

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**