Monday, November 28, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC by Sarah Mlynowsi, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (Scholastic, September 2015)

It's been a while since I've posted! As all parents know, every day is busy--but some seasons are busier than others. My 8th-grader is currently rehearsing for the local children's theater's production of The Wizard of Oz, and my 4th-grader is playing basketball. Wow! I'm putting in the miles on the minivan.

For the past few weeks, I've put off my blog post till the last minute, and then something invariably pops up, and the last minute becomes too late. This week, with Thanksgiving, I have had a few more moments of time, so HOORAY! I get to do Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

The book I'm featuring is on the Oregon Battle of the Books list. Also, my son's 4th-grade teacher asks them to do a monthly book report. November's theme was Fantasy, so we read the book together and killed several birds with one stone. Another HOORAY!

What It's About (via Amazon):
In a world of elite magic academies, weird and wonderful things happen when you’re sent off to public school . . . and put in the Upside-Down Magic class.

It’s never easy when your magic goes wonky.

For Nory, this means that instead of being able to turn into a dragon or a kitten, she turns into both of them at the same time—a dritten.

For Elliott, the simple act of conjuring fire from his fingertips turns into a fully frozen failure.

For Andres, wonky magic means he’s always floating in the air, bouncing off the walls, or sitting on the ceiling.

For Bax, a bad moment of magic will turn him into a . . . actually, he’d rather not talk about that.

Nory, Elliott, Andres, and Bax are just four of the students in Dunwiddle Magic School’s Upside-Down Magic class. In their classroom, lessons are unconventional, students are unpredictable, and magic has a tendency to turn wonky at the worst possible moments. Because it’s always amazing, the trouble a little wonky magic can cause . . .

Opening Lines:
"Nory Horace was trying to turn herself into a kitten.
The kitten had to be a black kitten. And it had to be completely kitten-shaped.
It was the middle of summer. Nory was hiding in her family's garage. Kitten, kitten, kitten, she thought."

Things to Like:
This is a quick read, with an appealing main character (Nory) who comes from a successful magical family--her father is the headmaster of an elite magical academy--but who is cursed with being 'wonky.' Her talent, that of Fluxer, means that she should be able to turn herself into an animal at will, as well as control herself in her animal body. Nory can do neither. Her kitten becomes a bitten, or even a dritten (dragon/kitten), and once transformed she acts more animal than human.

Comedy is a great part of this novel's appeal (imagine what happens when Nory turns into a skunkephant (skunk/elephant) when dealing with some bullies at her new school! I also enjoyed the camaraderie between the so-called outcasts, and the way they eventually come to accept their differences and see that their are strengths in their "wonkiness." (Having a lovely, affirming teacher helps.) I was a little concerned that Nory's father basically seems to ignore her once she leaves for the less prestigious school, but maybe this abandonment is address is later books in the series.

The 4th-grader gave it a thumbs up!

About the Authors:
One of the things that left me wondering was how three well-established authors could collaborate so well. There was no obvious difference in style between the chapters, so I did a little digging about their method. As Sarah Mlynowski says:
"I wrote this book with Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins, two brilliant writers who happen to be two of my closest friends. How do three people write a book together? In a nutshell: I outline, Lauren writes the first draft, and Emily edits. But we all do a lot of everything.
The best thing about working with friends is that because we love and respect each other, it's completely okay to share ridiculous ideas. In fact, it's encouraged. The best scenes come from ridiculous ideas. Our friendship gives us the freedom to jump as high as we can-and to trust that we are each other's built in net. Just in case any of the ideas are a little too upside-down."

Here are links to the respective authors' websites:
Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, Emily Jenkins.

Also: a guide for teachers to use UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC in the classroom

Here's hoping that things don't go back to being so hectic, and I'm able to be back next week. Ciao!