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The Real Boy by Anna Ursu

Oscar is an orphan. He was raised as the “hand” to a magician on an island where magic is all but lost to the people. Long ago, there were many wizards who used their magic to do extraordinary things. Now, few can use magic in the way that it is meant to be used. When something terrible happens to Wolf, the magician’s assistant, the magician must travel far across the country in hopes of discovering what really happened to Wolf. When the magician leaves, Oscar is left to care for the magician’s magic shop. However, Oscar is much more comfortable with plants and cats than he is with people. It isn’t until Callie, the healer’s assistant, comes to Oscar and helps him with his people skills. But when the city children begin falling ill and no one wants to know the truth, it’s up to Oscar and Callie to discover what’s really going on. This is one of my favorite books from last year and it’s perfect for those rapid fantasy lovers. Anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter or Narnia will devour this one! -- Reviewed by Anna from Books Inc. Palo Alto

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, ELIZABETH by E.L. Konigsburg

With Halloween just around the corner, I want to remind everybody about this Newbery Honor book by the wonderful E.L. Konigsburg (of  FROM THE MIXED UP FILES…fame!)  JENNIFER is one of my favorite books and I still enjoy reading it.

Elizabeth is a new fifth grader in school, but has not made any friends.  On the way to school on Halloween, dressed as a witch for the school parade, she meets another fifth grader named Jennifer.  Jennifer is not only dressed as a witch, but informs Elizabeth that she is, in fact, a real witch, and will make Elizabeth her apprentice.  Though not exactly friends, the girls spend all of their time together, with Jennifer setting up ‘apprentice witch’ tasks for Elizabeth to follow.

This is a great ‘girls’ book, (3rd, 4th, 5th grades) about friendship, loneliness, being the odd girl out, but also about finding that one good friend.   I just love how Elizabeth’s mom keeps asking her to become friends with one of the other girls who all the parents think is the perfect child, but who Elizabeth knows is actually fake and not a nice person.   Kids really do know best!

 --Reviewed by Penny of Books Inc. Burlingame

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere is a natural born tinkerer, creating fantastical gadgets out of found objects. When one of her inventions is received with laughter, Rosie decides her engineering needs to be confined to her attic room. The encouragement of her great, great aunt Rose (who just happens to be Rosie the Riveter - an iconic trailblazer) gives Rosie the courage to pursue her interests regardless of what people think; to redefine what failure means; and to persevere in the face of that failure. The affection and respect the Rosies feel for each other warms this auntie's heart (and makes this a great choice for book-buying aunties), and the joy Rosie experiences from the creative process is palpable. Beaty's language is rich and rhyming, and Roberts’ mixed media illustrations are quirky and expressive. As with their earlier collaboration Iggy Peck, Architect, there is a perfect (and lively) balance of words and images. The illustrations could delight a sophisticated three year old, but the language and message are better suited to a slightly older child. Absolutely love it.

--Reviewed by Ingrid, manager of Books Inc. Laurel Village