Heng Zeng for The Washington Post

What We Found in the Corn Maze and How It Saved a Dragon

By Henry Clark

Ages 8 to 12

Magic seeps into the ordinary town of Disarray, and a book of secret spells suddenly appears. It doesn’t take long for Cal Sapling and his two friends, Drew and Modesty, to start mumbling them.

Cal could use some magic. His family is about to lose their farm. No one is buying their carrots and tomatoes anymore. Instead, people prefer the quick and easy digital veggies made by the DavyTron. This machine — a type of 3-D printer invented by the town’s eccentric genius — is putting farmers out of business.

But what good are such spells as “To Walk With Stilts” or “To Change the Color of a Room”? Often, they don’t even work as they should. Cal needs big, dependable magic! He needs a spell to save the farm and another to fix a huge mistake he made, one that cost his parents a lot of money.

Cal, Drew and Modesty plunge into a tangled, wacky mystery that involves endangered dragons, magical minutes and a refrigerator with unique powers. They meet a young wizardly librarian named Preffy Arrowshot. Maybe he can help. Unfortunately, like them, Preffy has erratic control of the weird magic. He also has a hundred questions about science and an enormous appetite for pie.

To further complicate matters, town bullies pick on Cal. He also gets random calls on his cellphone from a complete stranger who poses confusing riddles. Cal doesn’t have time for any of this. Every ordinary and magical minute counts as he and his friends seek to rescue a dragon in terrible danger.

You never know what’s going to happen next in this funny book! It’s full of odd turns and what seem to be dead ends, much like the giant maze cut into the Saplings’ cornfield. Part of the fun is trying to figure out the clues and puzzles along with the characters. Can you spot the names of vegetables hidden in a line of code? Or determine which points in a regular day are actually magical? Or crack a password?

Each uncovered secret seems to lead to a new turn, another secret — and then to a key question: How will Cal and his friends ever get out of this maze?

You might also like . . .

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, in which an adventurous girl and a dragon trace the clues in ancient Chinese stories to break the curse on her bleak village.

Young readers should look for The Basque Dragon, by Adam Gidwitz and Jesse Casey. In the second, stand-alone book in the Unicorn Rescue Society chapter-book series, two kids set out for far-off lands to rescue a kidnapped dragon.

Next time in book club

September 2

By Brenda Woods

Ages 10 to 12

In the summer of 1946, a man named Meriwether saves a boy, Gabriel, from being struck by a car. Gabriel helps the out-of-work World War II veteran get a job in the family’s auto shop in Birdsong, South Carolina. Tensions arise, however, because Meriweather is Black; the other workers are White. Learning a secret about the man’s past makes Gabriel realize that the town’s Black residents lead lives far different from those of the people he knows.