Magic

Staff Picks: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Reviewed by Alejandria G.

Leo Logroña is the youngest member of her family. And as the youngest member of her family, she is used to everyone always telling her she is too young to help.

When the annual Día de los Muertos festival approaches, Leo thinks this will finally be the year she will be asked to help with festival preparations at her family’s beloved bakery. But yet again, she is disappointed when she is told she is still too young. After sneaking out of school to make sure all is really okay at the bakery, Leo accidentally discovers the shocking family secret: she belongs to family of brujas -witches- who use their magic to bake up the sweetest (and luckiest) treats in town.

Staff Picks: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Reviewed by Lizzie F. 

Callum Hunt has spent his entire life avoiding magic, but his attempts to flunk the entrance exam for the Magisterium are unsuccessful, and he finds himself an apprentice at the underground magic school where young mages are trained. Despite his initial reluctance, he begins to enjoy learning to use magic, but nothing can prepare him for what he is about to learn about himself and his past.

This book is great for fans of Harry Potter and the twist ending will leave you excited for the Magisterium series' second installment.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stunningly beautiful film that tells a deeply moving story of family, belonging, and adventure through the clever stop-motion. This Oscar-nominated film takes place in a medieval, mythologized Japan where our hero, Kubo, is forced to go on a quest to recover magical armor and weapons to stop the Moon King’s sinister plans. Kubo is a very talented musician and uses a magical shamisen, a lute-like instrument, to control pieces of his environment and aid him is his quest in breathtakingly beautiful ways that are worth watching over and over.

On his journey, he is joined by a talking macaque, Monkey, and a samurai who was cursed to live as a giant beetle, Beetle, and their interactions provide a great deal of humor. Together they battle monsters, try to untangle the mystery of Kubo’s family, become a team, and discover who they truly are.

Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

Winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor marks Rick Riordan’s return to the world of Asgard. Picking up right after their triumph at the end of the previous story, Magnus Chase and company must now retrieve Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, before the giants invade and destroy Earth. So overall, just your average day really. Filled with Riordan’s trademark research, interpretative genius, and wit, The Hammer of Thor will satisfy die-hard fans and likely make some new ones, as he tackles issues of race, religion, representation, and gender.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Winner of the 2017 Newberry Medal, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill is a must read for any fans of fairy tales and fantasy. Barnhill weaves together pieces of many genres, creating a story reminiscent of classic fairy tales, yet at the same time all its own. The many elements this story explores are difficult to adequately explain, but let it suffice to say that at its heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story about the power of love and family (both born and chosen) and illustrates the very best that fairy tale and fantasy storytelling has to offer.

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening

A dark fantasy that heralds the start of a thrilling new series, Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is a stunningly beautiful graphic novel that tells a heartrending and epic story. The story utilizes a mix of Asian mythologies and ancient Egyptian motifs to create a rich and layered world that Takeda’s art brings to beautiful life. The world is matriarchal and the bulk of the characters, heroes, villians, and those in between, are powerful and deadly women, often with rich and layered backstories. Monstress imagines a world that is at once completely different from our own, yet still hauntingly familiar. The power of this graphic novel is difficult to convey as both the story and artwork contain multitudes of layers that enrich the story and add complexity. Monstress is a tale of vengeance, redemption, horror, tragedy, friendship, shattered gods, magic, myth, and monsters all braided together into an exquisite graphic novel.

The Prestige

Opening Lines:  “Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge.” The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn." The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige."

While growing up in Bloomington, I had the pleasure of knowing a professional stage magician.  He made a small living performing at various conventions and meetings around the United States.  As a small boy of 10, I found him fascinating.  He took me under his wing for a while and gave me what he called a beginning magic kit.  It wasn’t the type you found in magic stores. This was something special. 

Beasts of Burden

Making yourself read outside your comfort zone can end up with some total misses and some excellent surprises. In all likelihood I would have missed Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, a graphic novel about a talking pack of animals that solve supernatural mysteries in their seemingly sweet suburban neighborhood of Burden Hill. That description wouldn't peak my interest, but also doesn't do the graphic novel justice either.
The storytelling is episodic, in that there are chapters that are a complete story into itself which makes for a fast read. There is a pack of animal friends, all dogs and one orphan cat who start uncovering supernatural cases in their neighborhood. They eventually become apprentices in the Wise Dog Society to further their training in fighting these evil forces. The supernatural stories cover a wide range from an evil coven of cats, a rain of mutant frogs, werewolves, magical earthen golems, ghosts, and more.

What's an Alex Award?

In ZanesvilleWarning! Don't look for these books in the Young Adult section! These are "Adult Books," written for adults. Teens beware!

Ok, now that I've got your attention, let me also say that these books are just great for teens. So great, in fact, that the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) made an award just for them, and named them after a famous Baltimore librarian - sort of. Her name was Margaret A. Edwards, but her friends called her Alex, and that's where we get the Alex Awards. The 2012 Alex Awards feature ten books written for adults, but with special appeal to teens.

Night Circus Readalikes

Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus tells the story of two competing magicians trying to outdo each other in the creation of an enchanted circus. Whether you've read it and want more of the gothic atmosphere, period charm, and dazzling detail, are on the holds list for it, or just enjoy a bit of whimsy and dark Victorianism, these books should be of interest.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a tale of the resurgence of English magic in the early 19th century, is just as dense and immersive as the equally thick Night Circus, and like that novel features a period writing style and a fully realized magical world-within-a-world.

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