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Magic by the Book

Magic by the Book

by Nina Bernstein, Boris Kulikov (Photographer)

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Neither Anne nor Emily remembered choosing the book at the library, but when as they read it, the boundary between their world and the one described in the book disappears. Suddenly they are in Sherwood Forest, where they join Robin Hood's band. The further adventures that await Anne, Emily, and their brother, Will, are the kind they had always dreamed about. They


Neither Anne nor Emily remembered choosing the book at the library, but when as they read it, the boundary between their world and the one described in the book disappears. Suddenly they are in Sherwood Forest, where they join Robin Hood's band. The further adventures that await Anne, Emily, and their brother, Will, are the kind they had always dreamed about. They had yearned for magic as strong as the spell cast by the stories they loved best. But then an uninvited guest turns up at their parents' garden party. The sinister man snatches the book with the intention of using its powers for evil, and the siblings find themselves engaged in a battle to regain possession of the book.

Richly detailed black-and-white drawings enliven this intriguing literary fantasy, which pays homage to some of the heroes of the author's childhood, among them E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, and Leo Tolstoy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lacing together strands of folklore, history and literature, Bernstein's (The Lost Children of Wilder) debut children's book is a cleverly convoluted celebration of fantasy, of reading and of the imagination. Anne and Emily, sisters living in mid-20th century Queens, begin reading a "small, shabby volume" and discover that they are characters in the story. In the first of three episodes, the girls suddenly find themselves in Sherwood Forest. The girls use their historical and literary knowledge to help Robin Hood and his band foil devious Prince John's plans to arrange for the execution of his brother, King Richard the Lion-Hearted. The girls' younger brother, Will, next enters the magical book, which transports him to a land of diminutive creatures called Gnomblins, who draft him to break a sorcerer's curse, which has caused all insects and bugs to expand to enormous proportions. Touches of humor keep the proceedings light ("The g is silent, but we rarely are I'm afraid," the Gnomblins state by way of introduction), and a subtle message about literacy threads through Will's adventure. In the novel's final, most cryptic caper, all three siblings follow an interloper at their parents' garden party into the mysterious book to become players in a scene from Tolstoy's War and Peace. Amusing anecdotes about the children's home life with their likeable, absentminded parents balance these fanciful, frequently suspenseful forays. Kulikov's voluptuous pen-and-ink chapter openers (which bring to mind Sir John Tenniel's work) contribute to the elegant storybook feel of the experience. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Anne, Emily, and Will Thornton discover a mysterious library book that becomes a portal into their favorite books and memories. Anne and Emily help Robin Hood to battle King John and the Lord Sheriff of Nottingham while Will shrinks to miniature size to pursue a quest in the backyard garden. Together, the siblings follow an evil villain into a jumbled version of War and Peace, answering riddles and fending off wolves in order to keep the book from falling into the wrong hands. Sadly, this book suffers from defects that detract from its smoothly written prose and ingenious premise. Bernstein imbues her characters with adult language ("My own true steed," six-year-old Will says of his grasshopper transportation) and adult sentiments (a solid few pages describe how the family cleans the house). The children's adventures waver as the author fails to believably support the main action of the story (Will's quest rambles, and the villain the children fight is never properly explained). For distinguished domestic fantasy set in the past, try instead the works of Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, or Lucy Boston.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A mildly engaging and very bookish fantasy, with a rich undercurrent of sibling lore, rivalry and affection. Like Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard (1983), these children check out a book that has certain powers and, like Roderick Townley's The Great Good Thing (2001), they find themselves actually in the stories they're reading. The first adventure finds Anne, 11, and Emily, nine, in Sherwood Forest, transplanted from their home in New York. Their parents write for a great metropolitan newspaper, and have filled the children with old stories and ballads, so the girls know how their story should end and how to help Robin rescue them from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The second adventure belongs to their small brother Will, whose love of insects and difficulty in learning to read bring him to a quest that's part Borrowers and part Jack story. In the third, a scene from War and Peace finds all three children transported from their parents' summer garden party to a winter fest in Russia, where they get to save the world, more or less. Graceful language and pretty interplay between the three children and between their loving, distracted parents adds interest. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Thorndike Literacy Bridge Middle Reader Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Magic by the Book

By Bernstein, Nina

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Copyright © 2005 Bernstein, Nina
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0374347182

From Magic by the Book:

By the time they caught sight of the book, both glancing down to the basket in the grass at the same moment, they knew their mother's voice would soon be echoing out over the hollyhocks from the first lighted window, calling them in to set the table for supper. Strangely excited, they plucked the book from the basket. Sitting side by side now at the edge of the canvas hammock, they opened it to the first paste and began to read.

"Dusk, the long blue dusk of summer, was already falling on the garden by the time they discovered the book," they read. " It was a small, shabby volume lying at the bottom of the wicker basket..."

There on the yellowed page were their names, their ages, their hammock, and their copper beech tree.

"Anne, it's magic, it just has to be magic," Emily whispered, looking into her sister's face. Pale under her freckles in the fading light, Anne hushed her and turned the page.

"As they sat reading, the tall pines at the bottom of the garden filled with mist. White and thick, it swirled up the slope to meet them, obscuring arbor, apple tree, azaleas, until only the tops of the trees were visible, knit by the fog into a forest. And from this forest suddenly there came the sound of approachinghoofbeats."

Even as they read the words, Anne and Emily heard the sound, muffled at first, but unmistakable and coming closer: a horse's hooves on the forest floor. Starting up with a cry, Emily was enveloped in the mist she had just read about, and clutched for her older sister's hand. The book tumbled to the ground, and the two girls found themselves alone in a fog-shrouded forest clearing , braced for the galloping horse and rider to burst upon them.


Excerpted from Magic by the Book by Bernstein, Nina Copyright © 2005 by Bernstein, Nina. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Nina Bernstein is a staff reporter for The New York Times. Her book The Lost Children of Wilder was a National Book Award finalist. This is her first children's book. She lives in New York City.

Boris Kulikov illustrated Morris the Artist by Lore Segal. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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