By Sage Blackwood
Ages 8 to 12
Life in the Urwald, a magical forest, is dangerous. There are trolls, werewolves, witches and trees that don’t like visitors.
But for a boy named Jinx, it's not surprising that bad things are headed his way.
Werewolves killed his dad and elves carried away his mom. His stepparents didn’t care much for Jinx, especially after they had a baby of their own.
So stepdad Bergthold aims to abandon 6-year-old Jinx. He takes the boy deep into the woods. As luck would have it, a wizard named Simon meets the two and offers to buy Jinx.
It’s not clear to Jinx whether it was good luck or bad that he ends up with Simon. He has a place to live and food to eat, but Simon is grumpy and secretive, and he does very little to look after Jinx.
The prospect of learning magic from Simon makes the wizard’s shortcomings seem less troubling. But Simon thinks of the eager Jinx more as a servant than a student. Eventually Simon begins giving him lessons in reading and magic. Jinx masters reading but isn’t quick to learn wizard magic.
The boy realizes that he has different powers. He can see people’s thoughts and feelings even if they are trying to hide them. He also has an extremely rare ability to connect with the forest.
When Simon performs a spell that takes away some of Jinx’s powers, the boy decides he must leave the wizard’s house to figure out what has happened.
While in the woods, Jinx meets a boy and a girl who are also looking to have magic undone. They decide to travel together, although no one completely trusts the others.
They learn more about the Urwald, themselves and the dangers of magic during the journey. Jinx also learns that his remaining powers can be used not just for his own purposes but also for a greater good.
“Jinx’s Magic,” the second book in the series, is available in libraries and bookstores.
Younger readers might enjoy “Earwig and the Witch” by Diana Wynne Jones. Earwig is an orphan but not a sad one. She has trained everyone in the orphanage to do exactly what she wants, so she has no interest in leaving. A scary-looking couple ruin her plans when they insist on adopting her. Earwig soon realizes they don’t want a daughter, they want a witch’s helper. But magic is intriguing; perhaps Earwig will learn a thing or two.
By Peter Lerangis
Ages 8 to 12.
Jack McKinley is worried about flunking a math test. But that test is the least of his troubles. After he collapses on his way to school, he wakes up in a strange hospital. It turns out that Jack has a rare trait that’s going to kill him within six months. The only cure is tied to an ancient mystery. To solve it, he and three other kids with the same trait must find magical artifacts from the lost city of Atlantis.