Spark, by Sarah Beth Durst

There are times (many of them), when I'm really really really glad I started blogging lo these many years ago!  Mostly these times involve book mail from favorite authors, such as Sarah Beth Durst, whose adult, YA and middle grade books all delight me very much!  

Spark, by Sarah Beth Durst (middle grade, Clarion Books, May 14 2019), is the story of Mina, a quiet girl in a boisterous family, who learns that she can effect much needed change to right a wrong without changing the truth of who she is.  It's also the story of Mina's storm beast, Pixit, and how the magic of the storm beasts shapes Mina's world.

Mina's country is blessed with perfect weather that's gaurenteed by the storm beasts (basically elemental dragons with feathers) who manage every detail of it.  Some bring rain, some soak up the warm and light of the sun, some control the winds...and some can gather electricity, to power the cities.  Selected children are given storm beast eggs to hatch, and telepathically bond with the beasts.  Mina is one such child.  But to her family's shock, quiet, thoughtful Mina's egg hatches one of the lightning beasts.  They can't imagine her going to the training school for such beasts and their riders, who are the most impulsive and wildest of all the types.   But Mina and Pixit, her beast, love each other, and are determined to pass the tests and be a good team, doing what they are supposed to do for the good of the country.  So they head off to the school for lightning beasts, in the barren lands butted up against the mountains marking the boarder of the realm.

And indeed quiet, reserved Mina is overwhelmed by the kids around her.  The book-learning side of things offers some respite, and she's happy spending time amongst the schools books. learning about her country's history (something many of us can relate to!).  It's also a help that her room-mate, though just as exuberant and loud as any of the other kids, is a decent, sympathetic girl, and she starts to make friends with a few other kids as well.  But Mina's confidence is shaken when she can't seem to hold and control the lightning Pixit pulls from the sky the way the other kids can. Maybe she's not meant to be at the school after all...maybe she's a failure.

 But when she and Pixir get blown over the mountains, past the boundary of their homeland, she meets outsiders for the first time. And she finds out that her country idyllic weather comes at a cost.  She can't ignore what she's learned.  But how can a quiet girl make her voice heard?

Happily, Mina doesn't miraculously become a different person in order to achieve what she sets out to do, because she's not alone (being surrounded by confident, uninhibited classmates), and because she realizes just whose voice it is that needs to be heard (hint-not hers, and not her classmates....).  A pebble can start an avalanche without becoming a boulder....and a girl can be brave and do what's right without taking the limelight herself.

So if you love any combination of magical school stories, friendship stories, dragon stories, dark sides of utopia stories, social justice stories, and girls who love reading stories, you will find Spark wonderful! (except that it is perhaps too short.  I'd have liked it to go on longer....)

a second opinion from Kirkus- "Warm, exciting, hopeful, and ethical."


  1. Definitely purchasing for my Wings of Fire fans, who have been VERY enthusiastic this year.

  2. How can a quiet girl make her voice heard? That is surely something many middle graders need help with. Thanks for the heads up on this book.

  3. Sounds like a winning combination, especially the magic school & dragons!!

  4. This sounds great! And what an eye-catching cover!


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