‘Upside-Down Magic’ transports readers to school for mixed-up magicians

When school started this year, you felt a little strange.

Odd, weird, discombobulated. Like everything was topsy-turvy: new things to learn, a new teacher, new kids to meet. It took some adjusting — so much to learn! — but things are fine now. Once you read the new book “Upside-Down Magic” by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins, however, you’ll be glad that a little newness was all you had to endure!

Elinor Boxwood Horace was totally embarrassed.

In order to get into Sage Academy — the school where her father happened to be headmaster — Nory had to pass The Big Test. She was required to prove that she was a Fluxer — not a Flicker or a Flyer or a Fuzzy (like big sister Delia) or a Flare (like older brother Hawthorn). A Fluxer, who changed into an animal and back again. A Fluxer, that’s what she was — and a bad one at that, because she failed The Big Test.

For weeks, Nory had been practicing her magic nonstop. She could turn into a black kitten easy enough, but then things went wrong. Her kitten sometimes became a bitten (beaver + kitten) or a dritten (dragon + kitten) or a skunkephant (elephant + skunk). Having “wonky” magic was the worst!

Having to go live with Aunt Margo was second-worse. Because Nory couldn’t go to Sage Academy, Father sent her to live with Margo, a Flyer who owned a flying taxi service and who lived near Dunwiddle, a school that worked with kids whose magic was wonky.

Kids like Nory.

Being sent away from her family made Nory sad. It was easy to make mistakes (great, big, stinky mistakes, in fact) and hard to make friends — although she did have to admit that her classmates in Upside-Down Magic class were interesting: Bax, who became a stone when he was nervous; Willa, who made rain inside; Elliott, who was a rare Freezer; Andres, who floated; and Pepper, who scared even the biggest kids at school. Interesting, but Nory missed home.

And then, she learned of a possible way to get out of Dunwiddle — and it worked. No more wonky magic. No more bittens! No more drittens!

And, unfortunately, no more unique ways to be a magic hero…

From the outset, “Upside-Down Magic” had me wondering what kind of hocus-pocus I’d started. This book begins too abruptly, with no fanfare and very little introduction.

Was I missing some pages?

No, the authors instead leap right into their tale, which ultimately fills out to become a sweetheart of a story about patience, being true to one’s self, acceptance and friendship. Despite its initial abruptness, that made me smile. Yes, indeed, it takes awhile for this book’s plot to coalesce, but by the time it does, your child will be thoroughly charmed.

Meant for 8- to 12-year-olds, this kittens-and-unicorns fantasy might be decent light-reading for a teen who wants something easy-breezy. Or, of course, you could read it, too, because “Upside-Down Magic” is an upright kind of book.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children weekly.

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