Bad Magic

Thanks to NetGalley, I’ve been introduced to the first book in what is sure to be a fantastic series for middle grade readers. This book is Bad Magic by Pseudonymous Bosch, and it’s due for a September 16th release.

Bad Magic is full of snark and humor, and it also parallels one of my favorite plays, The Tempest by William Shakespeare. All in all, I’d say this book is a must-purchase for libraries that serve middle grade readers.

Clay hates magic. One day, he writes his feelings for magic in his journal, and his words–Magic Sucks!–mysteriously (or magically) appear on the side of a building at school. Of course, all fingers point to Clay, and even though he knows he’s innocent, he’s sent away to Earth Ranch, a wilderness camp for troubled youth.

Almost immediately, Clay realizes that things are kind of weird at Earth Ranch, which is located perilously close to an active volcano. There’s the llama that only responds to Spanish, the swarms of bees that simply don’t behave like they should, and the vog (volcanic smog) that makes everything just a little spookier.

Things get even stranger when Clay learns of the seemingly haunted–and off-limits–library that has all but been abandoned. Of course, like any curious kid presented with a mystery, Clay has to investigate this library, and his quest for answers leads him on a journey that makes him question everything around him…including the reason he was sent to Earth Ranch.

What is really going on at Earth Ranch? Is anyone who they seem to be? Why is this camp so much like a play he was reading in school? Is Clay just imagining the connections, or is he really living out a Shakespearean play? Is that crazy, or is someone trying to get Clay to believe in magic once again? If so, who?

Nothing makes sense for Clay, and his search for the truth will only give him more questions. Can you figure out what’s really going on before Clay does? Jump into Bad Magic to find out!

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I had hoped to add Bad Magic to my elementary library collection, but I think some of the humor is just a little too mature for my students. Middle grade readers, though, will eat up all of the sarcasm and gross humor in this book. (I’ve taught middle school before, so I know snark and potty humor is the first language of most 6th-8th graders.)

I don’t know why, but I tend to enjoy novels with funny, informative footnotes. I got those in Bad Magic. These footnotes added to the humor in this novel, but they also provided readers with information on things they may not be totally familiar with…like popular 70s TV shows, for example. I don’t know how it will look in the print version of the novel, but my digital galley had each of these asterisks as links to the footnotes. (Click on the asterisk, and move to the footnote. Click on the asterisk next to the footnote, and move back to the text. Easy-peasy.) I’m hoping that the print version will have the footnotes at the bottom of each page so that reading this added info isn’t too jarring.

As a fan of Shakespeare, particularly The Tempest, I really appreciated Bad Magic‘s connections to this too-often-forgotten play. Those familiar with the play may be able to figure out what’s going on with Clay much sooner than he does. Bad Magic could also be a fun follow-up to studies of The Tempest. I think students (and teachers) could enjoy comparing the two stories and using what happened in The Tempest to predict what will happen in Bad Magic.

Like I said previously, Bad Magic is a must-have book in middle school libraries, and this book can be purchased on September 16th. If you’d like to learn more about this book and others by author Pseudonymous Bosch, definitely do not go to this website.

The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love

It’s been quite some time since my last post.  You know how it is with the start of a new school year.  Busy, busy, busy.  I hope to get back into the swing of things with my reading and blogging now that the madness has died down a bit.  Now, on to my latest read.

A.E. Cannon’s The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love is loosely based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I don’t know what the deal is with a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately.  This makes the third one with a basis in Shakespeare.  (The other two were Alan Gratz’s Something Wicked and Suzanne Selfors’ Saving Juliet.)

Anyhoo, this story revolves around Ed, who really wants to be more exciting than he actually is.  His opportunity comes in the form of a nametag.  He doesn’t have his own nametag yet at the movie store where he works, so he’s given an old one.  He can now be Sergio.  He and his best friend, Scout (a girl), make up outlandish stories about who Sergio really is.  (They’ve decided he’s from Brazil, and spends much of his time traveling to exotic places.)  Ed gets the chance to pretend to be the mysterious Sergio when a beautiful new girl, Ellie, comes into the video store and thinks this is Ed’s real name.

As in most cases of mistaken identity, chaos ensues.  Ed thinks he’s in love with Ellie, Scout is in love with Ed, Quark (Ed’s other best friend) is in love with Scout, and Ellie is in love with Sergio (who’s really Ed).  It’s a big ol’ mess, and Ed has to figure out a way to fix things without anyone getting hurt, including himself.

A Loser’s Guide to Life and Love is a very quick, easy read, and one that is fairly enjoyable, especially if the reader has some knowledge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  (Note:  This is not necessary, but it does help a little.)  I think it’s great that many YA authors are writing stories based on classic works, particularly those of Shakespeare.  It’s an excellent way to introduce young adults to stories that they may have heard of but had no interest in reading because they thought the stories were old and irrelevant.  I think the works of Shakespeare are timeless, and I hope these new takes on the Bard’s best will captivate a new generation of readers.

Saving Juliet

Like many teenage girls, I loved Romeo and Juliet when I was in high school.  It was required reading in my ninth grade English class, but I never complained about this reading assignment.  (The same cannot be said when we were required to read Great Expectations.  Shudder.)  I guess I related to all of that teen angst, but I did wonder why dear old Will Shakespeare had to go and kill off these two youngsters.  Why couldn’t they have a happy ending and still stick it to their families?  Well, that very subject arose in my latest read, Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors.

Mimi Wallingford has been groomed for a career in theater her entire life.  Her family owns a Manhattan theater famous for their productions of Shakespeare’s works.  Mimi is currently playing the role of Juliet in, you guessed it, Romeo and Juliet.  The only problem is that she hates acting.  She has horrible stage fright, and she feels like her mother is forcing her own dreams down Mimi’s throat.  It also doesn’t help that she’s got a huge crush on Troy (who is playing Romeo), a pop star who seems to enjoy tormenting her.  Mimi wishes she were anywhere but in her current circumstances.  Well, her wish is about to come true…

Through a bit of magic, Mimi and Troy are transported to Shakespeare’s Verona where they are immediately caught up in the story of Romeo and Juliet.  When Mimi actually meets Juliet, she knows she can change this girl’s story and make it a happy one.  She identifies with Juliet.  Mimi too knows what it’s like to be trapped by the expectations of her parents.

Although Mimi’s intentions are noble, she does get into a bit of trouble.  She is exiled by Lady Capulet (who makes the Wicked Witch of the West seem like Dorothy), she sort of likes Benvolio (who is actually kind of a jerk), and she has to take care of Troy who was stabbed by Tybalt.  On top of all this, she has to figure out how to get back home and change the ending of her own story.  Can she do it?  Will Romeo and Juliet finally have a happy ending?  Will Mimi and Troy ever make it home?  I’ll let you discover the answers for yourselves when you read Suzanne Selfors’ Saving Juliet.

Enter Three Witches: A Story of Macbeth

Okay…I have a confession to make.  I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare’s tragedies.  (Shocking, I know.)  Well, Caroline B. Cooney’s Enter Three Witches may have just changed my mind–at least when it comes to Macbeth.  This retelling of Macbeth follows Mary, a ward of Lord and Lady Macbeth, and several other characters that were not vital or even present in the original play:  Fleance, son of Banquo; Seyton, one of Macbeth’s lackeys; Ildred and Swin, servants in the Macbeth household; and a few other characters.  These characters present the tragedy of Macbeth from their own points of view and provide readers with a very different glimpse of this tale.

These points of view give readers a new look at an old piece of literature.  In my opinion, it makes it more exciting and relevant to young adult readers, as most of the characters are young adults themselves.  Lady Mary, for example, is only fourteen (and, by the end of the book, is on her fourth engagement).

Quotes from Macbeth head each of the chapters and sub-chapters and indicate a new character is speaking.  The original dialogue is also interspersed within the book’s text.  This interweaving of new and old could persuade some readers to go back and read or re-read Macbeth itself to compare the two works.

Caroline B. Cooney definitely has a winner on her hands with Enter Three Witches.  She is helping to make Shakespeare exciting for a whole new audience.  I highly recommend this book!