Bookshelf: The Wrong Side of Magic

Not many magical adventures begin with a sick cat.

Hudson’s sister Bonnie adopts a stray kitten that turns out to be poorly. Hudson dutifully offers ten dollars to help pay for a trip to the vet. When that turns out not to be quite enough, he finds himself chasing in Bonnie’s wake, begging her to be less embarrassing in her fundraising efforts.

Until, having raised over seventy bucks, Bonnie suddenly trades the money for a magic compass. This is still for the sake of the cat, of course, and the trade is only temporary. Charlotte — whose father prefaces his stage magic shows with the explanation that he’s an outcast wizard from the magical land of Logos — promises to take the compass back and return the money once Bonnie has used the compass to get to Logos and bring back some catflower, a panacea for cat ills that grows there.

As Hudson points out, this is, of course, utter nonsense.

But then Hudson takes the compass and finds himself suddenly in a forest so colorful, it makes him think of Candyland.

Janette Rallison’s The Wrong Side of Magic is a charming and breezy portal fantasy for middle readers. It has the confident logic of The Magic Treehouse, the queer otherworldliness of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, and a love of language and logic that puts it somewhere between Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein. Highly recommended.

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