Upside-down Magic, by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

Upside-down Magic, by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (Scholastic 2015)

Nory's magic is wonkey.  She has a gift for transforming herself, but it always goes wrong.  When she tried for Kitten, for instance, a bit of beaver gets mixed in...and so Nory is, with good reason, anxious about the Big Test that will determine if she gets a place in the school of magic where her father is the headmaster.  Beaver-kittens are not welcome.

Nory doesn't pass.  And her father, who wins my award for jerk father of the year, rejects her utterly, and sends her off to her aunt where she'll be enrolled at a magic school that has a special class for people with upside-down magic like hers.   Her aunt is loving and warm, the other kids, though quirky with regard to their magic, are just fine, and the teacher does her best to make the kids in her class feel good about not being normal, and tries to get them to value their strengths.

But being normal, when it means getting to go home again, and not being teased by the mean kids, is still awfully appealing to Nory.  So she does her best to keep her magic confined in a mental box of Normal.  But just when she's almost mastered strict control, the mean kids with regular magic land (inside joke if you've read the book) one of her classmates in serious danger.  Nory has to tap into her upside-down gift in order to save him, and she does. 

It's a fun story, and though there is clearly a Lesson (different isn't necessarily bad; be yourself!), that doesn't overshadow the fun--Nory knows she's being lessoned to, as it were, so it's not as though the authors were simply moralizing at the reader.  The happy ending of the weird kids happily having a party together, isn't, though, entirely happy--I'm not convinced that they are convinced that their wonky powers are really worth it.  There's not quite enough external validation, and Nory's father is still a jerk, still rejecting her at the end.

Still, it's  one a second to fourth grader might well enjoy; any much older and they might feel the message was too obvious and not quite satisfactorily played out.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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