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Review of A Most Magical Girl

foxlee_most magical girlA Most Magical Girl
by Karen Foxlee
Intermediate    Knopf    297 pp.
8/16    978-0-553-51285-4    $16.99
Library ed    978-0-553-51286-1    $19.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-553-51287-8    $10.99

Annabel is outraged when her mother removes her from her conventional young ladies’ school, sets her up as an assistant in her great-aunts’ magic shop, and promptly disappears. But the tears and repining with which she greets her new life diminish as she takes up her role as “Valiant Defender of Good Magic.” She learns that she is the Annabel Grey destined to retrieve a wand that will vanquish an evil force threatening all of London. Her quest takes her underground — over the Lake of Tears, through the Kingdom of Trolls, and into the lair of a smelly dragon — with the help of wild Kitty, a “betwixter” who traverses both fairy and human worlds, and a hairy little troll named Hafwen. Like many quest fantasies, at heart this is a tale of inner development, a theme Foxlee (Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, rev 1/14; The Midnight Dress, rev. 1/14) treats with compassion. She gently mocks notions of propriety in this magical, quasi-Victorian world, valuing “be good; be brave” instead for girls’ moral formation. Here, a teacup is a means to prophetic visions; an umbrella a simile for a dragon’s wings unfolding (“like a thousand umbrellas being opened in unison”). Despite its conventional good vs. evil scenario, this is memorable for its vivid imagery and stylish, thoughtful prose.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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