THE ROOT OF MAGIC, by Kathleen Benner Duble, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, June 11, 2019, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Wisp is sick. He’s been sick for a long time, and no one can figure out why. Willow is Wisp’s big sister and dreams of the way life used to be — life that doesn’t revolve around doctors and their mother’s unending search for a cure.
Wisp’s illness has taken a toll on the whole family. Mom is always anxious, trying to keep Wisp safe at every move. Wisp has lost his friends and pretty much every fun thing in life. Dad has moved out. And the weight of responsibility hangs over Willow.
It seems as if the bad is only getting worse when a freak car accident strands Willow, Wisp and their mom in a small town. With no cell service and a blizzard that shows no sign of moving on, Mom goes into full panic mode. But there’s something weird about Kismet. Something that changes Mom and her whole outlook.
When Willow discovers the magic the people of Kismet have been hiding, she’s amazed. The magic brings her mother peace, and allows Wisp to have more of a life than he’s had in forever. But as time passes, Willow comes to understand that magic comes with strings, and those strings come at a cost.
The Root of Magic has a Tuck Everlasting feel to it. It has a dreamlike quality that meanders at a decent pace.
Character development throughout is mixed. As you’d expect, Willow is the most fully-realized character. Her motives are clear, and her curiosity carries her. Her new-found friend, Topher, is also well-thought-out, and follows a compelling arc. Though well-meaning Willow’s mom isn’t particularly likeable. I could feel myself take on her anxiety as I read. Wisp is the least-developed character, and comes across as a plot element rather than someone you really come to know.
The Root of Magic is part mystery, part study of family dynamics. The mystery elements unfold well, but more adept readers will figure it out before Willow does. As a parent, I found the family dynamics intriguing, but I don’t know how much young readers will discover beneath the surface.
The Root of Magic is a quiet read that requires readers to think out of the box. It’s a good option for fans of magical realism.
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