Usually when I get e-mails about requesting reviews for books that are completely out of my subject expertise, I do the typical bookish thing and either refuse to e-mail them back because I am unable to say “no” to anyone, or I e-mail them back that I completely disagree with their book (For instance, a health book explaining how bad being a vegetarian can be for someone. If you’ve checked up on me at all, you know that I’m a vegetarian and therefore would rather stab my favorite book ten times, than read yours).
However, when Kevin Turner e-mailed me about his book he was so incredibly nice that I couldn’t turn it down. In this case, the nice guy wins. I’m going to chalk this one up to his being a teacher for middle grades education, and the fact that he has two daughters and so he’s had to wrestle in dangerous terrain for the last few years. I think sometimes, teachers are the best people to write books for their age group because they really see the minds working every single day and know what these students are looking for in a book, or an escape.
Working with teenagers has been both enlightening when it comes to books and frustrating. While I truly believe if you give a teenager the right book they will learn to love reading, I don’t think it’s something teenagers (or kids really) generally think about. With all the other technology, pimples, and teen angst that is going on in them, why would they ever think to pick up a book for any reason, especially when books are so entirely boring in their classroom? It’s an extra tough thing for a YA author to go about constructing a novel that keeps both interest, and intrigue. There’s a difference if you don’t think so. While Harry Potter kept my interest because it was so weird, and so imagistic, it didn’t keep my intrigue because I already felt like I knew what was going to happen through the next several books. Good conquers evil, as usual and Harry is never going to hook up with Hermoine.
People ask me all the time, what are some good books for boys to read? After The Outsiders, anything with a character at all resembling Holden Caulfield, and the fantasies you see labeled in the library as “middle grades fantasy,” I run out of answers. I have no idea what middle school boys like. Really, I always think about porn stashed under mattresses when I’m asked these questions (someone always has a dirty uncle right?) I was a middle school girl so I was fantasizing about the next Twilight book, or obsessing over Judy Blume hidden in some corner staring at the page from an inch away. I wanted making-out in my books (thus why I stopped at Harry Potter #4. I know, gasp. My friends tell me that’s the worst one anyway and they get better from there, but I haven’t picked them up again yet).
However, I think I can finally offer people up this juicy tidbit of middle school wonder by Kevin Turner. The Magi, although not a very original title, centers around Elijah who is in the process of nine-hundred and seventy-two major life changes and that doesn’t even include being a middle-school aged boy with usual hormones. And for once, we have a character in middle school who actually likes his family, in fact he loves his sister Kyria and she loves him. Shocking that someone could actually put that in a book – no evil step-sisters here. (I love that about Mr. Turner, it’s that nice guy, author thing).
While I can’t go ahead and outline if this a truly original book because I don’t often read middle school boy fantasy (or girl middle school fantasy even though there are some pretty tough girls in this book), I can say that I recommended it to the boyfriend because he’s into reading those fantasy, boy novels. I think it’s safe to say if I recommend it to the boy I’m dating than it is probably worth the read, regardless if you have a raging hormonal dingle (as my nephew so cutely calls it). I should however, probably give a synopsis:
Elijah is magical, in fact his entire family is magical and it’s not because they are freaks, or the pixie dust flows through their gene pool but rather they come from a group of people who can harness the earth’s magic. I know when I was younger I really believed that my toys were talking to one another when I wasn’t in the room (I swear I’ve seen some move positions), but it’s almost the same sort of thing. A group of people are hidden both away, and amongst commoners, but they can protect through magic. Of course, while you have the protecting side, you also have the evil side which is coined the “Maliphists” (I think this is a particularly great name for an evil tribe of people). Throughout the book they don’t really battle, per say, but they have encounters due to childish adventure, and you can tell that Turner is going to write further books, if only to explain to me personally what is the deal with the Hawk family. Seriously, I was waiting the entire book for just a smidgin of knowledge about that pocket watch he carries and nothing, not a dang thing. I thought for sure when he visits Walter, he gets the clock connection, but nothing. I was also frustrated, when Elijah kept telling everyone throughout the entire book that his dad and uncle had the last names Hawk, when they were clearly named Benson at a younger age. I know if you haven’t read this, you won’t understand, but maybe now you’re both intrigued and interested.
I think my favorite part of this book is the child’s sense of adventure. I think as I grew up and let my Barbies cut their own hair inside their large plastic box and change themselves, I lost that sense of adventure that really drove me as a child. It’s natural always to be curious, to seek the light in dark spaces, and yet we all kind of lose that as we hit reality in our high school or maybe later years. I love when a book gives me back that sense of courage, and wanderlust. It made me want to buy mountain hiking boots, or look at a vase of water for a really long time with my eyes squinted, or watch that commercial where the Darth Vader child thinks he’s turned the car on and his dad is in the kitchen unseen clicking the ignition on. It’s that sense that this book is driven by, and that is the sense of interest for a middle school boy. I remember in my neighborhood all the boys used to go down by the creek and catch crawfish (I tried to join, but I was much more interested in playing balance beam on the fallen logs). Boys want to get their hands dirty, they want to believe in magic and super heroes, they want to have friends and have crushes on girls.
I highly recommend this book if you need to reignite that sense of adventure, or if you have a middle school child at home who maybe needs a spark to get them back into reading. Even if neither of these fits you, then maybe just read this book because you can get back into childhood, into memories of forts made out of sheets. It’s really wonderful and Turner will be creating a series which I’ll be buying for myself, and for my nephew (who’s three but will appreciate it later). The middle school boy in me is putting his bandana on and muddying up his face.
Here is a list of other blog reviewers for this book: