All the Colors of Magic, by Valija Zinck

If you are looking for a fun, comfy middle grade fantasy full of color and quirky details, try All the Colors of Magic, by Valija Zinck (Chicken House, December 3, 2019).  I enjoyed it lots.

10-year-old Penelope lives a mostly ordinary life with her mom and grandma.  The ordinary part is being looked after, going to school, and sometimes thinking about her dad, who vanished long ago.  There are less ordinary parts to her life though.  Her hair is gray, she has a whiff of fire smell around her, and it always rains on her birthday.  And she has a knack for hearing things in her head before her ears hear them.

When her mother has a bad traffic accident, leaving Penelope and her grandma on her own for several weeks while she's in the hospital, Penelope finds to her surprise that her hair isn't naturally gray--it's fiery red.  And she discovers her father is still alive, and still in (sporadic) touch with her mother.  With her hair red instead of gray from the paste her mom's been putting on it, her life gets more magical--for instance, she can hear, and converse, with the local road (which adds nice bits of humor to the story).   And now she knows her dad's alive, she wants to find him.

And so she sets out to do just that, on a path that leads both to discovery of her gifts, and to danger--power-hungry men would do almost anything for the opportunities her magic could give them....

There's enough plot and suspense to the story to keep one's attention, without one (me, that is), being made too anxious, and there's humor to further lighten things.  Penelope is a believable, appealing girl, and it's fun to see her magic blooming.  The risk she takes and the dangers she faces are substantive, but not exaggerated past the point where I rolled my eyes (not even close to that point, actually, and I wouldn't have minded a smidge more tension).   And the writing is full of color (literally), with vivid descriptions of the vivid world Penelope lives in (it's our world, but Penelope's family appreciates color....)

All the Colors of Magic was first published in Germany in 2017, making it even more interesting...it's always fun to read middle grade fantasy from other countries!  But it should feel right at home here in the US.  Offer it to young readers who love books of ordinary kids finding extraordinary, slightly whimsical, magic, like Natalie Lloyds A Snicker of Magic.

And now, for my own entertainment, I go to Kirkus to see if they agree with me (if they don't they're wrong, and if they do we are both righter....)  and they do! We both win! "The charming, comforting, and enjoyable tale of a magical girl discovering her (family and hair) roots."   

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a real winner. Thanks for the head's up. I'll check it out.


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