The Magician's Apprentice

The Magician's Apprentice

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by Kate Banks, Peter Sís

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Baz has always dreamed about following his two older brothers out of his dusty little town, so when a stranger comes to his family's home and asks him to be a weaver's apprentice, Baz is eager to start his journey. But when he reaches the village of Kallah and starts his apprenticeship, Baz learns that his master is very cruel. And when the master trades Baz to a


Baz has always dreamed about following his two older brothers out of his dusty little town, so when a stranger comes to his family's home and asks him to be a weaver's apprentice, Baz is eager to start his journey. But when he reaches the village of Kallah and starts his apprenticeship, Baz learns that his master is very cruel. And when the master trades Baz to a magician for a sword, Baz expects no better from his new owner. But as Baz travels with this kind-hearted and wise magician, their journey takes him across the desert, up a mountain, and into the depths of life's meaning. He learns to re-examine his beliefs about people, the world, and himself, discovering that the whole world is connected and no person can ever be owned.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—When a stranger appears in their small dusty village where every day is a carbon copy of the one before, Baz feels it is his destiny to follow him, just as his brothers did years ago. After traveling with the stranger for many days, they reach the village of Kallah, and Baz begins an apprenticeship as a weaver. Eager to embrace his new calling, he is dismayed to learn that his master is a cruel man who whips the apprentices, stripping them of their dignity and independence. When the boy is sold to a magician for a sword, he is wary of his new owner, Tadis, as they set off on a long and arduous journey across mountain and desert. Tadis, however, is a wise man who teaches Baz the importance of finding one's true calling. Along the way, the boy must learn to decipher Tadis's lyrical words and find the significance of illusions in his life. Sís's black-and-white illustrations are interspersed throughout, adding depth and character to Baz and his travels. Banks has woven a beautiful, mystical journey that will enable insightful readers to ponder their own callings and place in the world.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA
Publishers Weekly
Banks’s (This Baby) allegorical fable stands out in this genre for its understated tone and lack of pretension. Sixteen-year-old Baz, a realistic mix of fearful and brave, accepts an unknown visitor’s invitation to leave his village and become a weaver’s apprentice. However, the abusive weaving master to whom he is delivered trades Baz for a sword to a wandering magician, Tadis, who dispenses magic and wisdom with equal alacrity. “ ‘Intention does not come from the mind, though the mind thinks it does. Intention comes from here.’ Tadis pointed to his heart.” Traveling with Tadis and his cart of tricks, Baz embarks on a long physical and spiritual journey to find his true destiny. Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern land and filled with vivid descriptions of earthquakes and sandstorms, as well as physical discomforts and homesickness, the book gently traces Baz’s growing understanding of the universal truths Tadis imparts. Sís’s distinctive, diminutive line drawings appear throughout as spot illustrations, perfectly complementing the understated yet rich voice in which Baz’s story is told. Ages 10–14. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“Banks has woven a beautiful, mystical journey that will enable insightful readers to ponder their own callings and place in the world.” —School Library Journal

“A moving, thoughtful apprentice tale.” —Kirkus

“Sís's distinctive, diminutive line drawings appear throughout as spot illustrations, perfectly complementing the understated yet rich voice in which Baz's story is told.” —Publishers Weekly

“. . . beautiful . . .” —Booklist

“. . . lyrical, imagistic, and thought-provoking.” —Horn Book

Children's Literature - Pat Trattles
In Baz's culture it is traditional when young boys attain a certain age they leave home to be apprenticed into a trade. Baz's two older brothers have gone, and he knows some day his time will come. So when a stranger shows up and asks Baz to be a weaver's apprentice, he gladly follows him. They travel far and finally arrive at the village of Kallah. There he begins his apprenticeship under a very cruel master who regularly beats his apprentices, and forbids them to even talk among themselves. Despite the talking ban, Baz befriends Dagar, a fellow apprentice. When Dagar is severely beaten and mysteriously vanishes the next day, Baz is convinced Dagar is dead and tries to figure out how he might escape his cruel master. But before he can put any escape plans into action his master sells him to a magician. Baz expects his new master to be just as cruel as the first, but to his surprise discovers his is a just the opposite. As he travels across the desert and up the mountain with Tadis, his new master, he learns that he is a gentle, kind-hearted, and very wise man. From Tadis he learns the secrets of a magician's work: to dispel illusions, expand beliefs, and remove limitations that people put on themselves. Baz's story is what is often referred to as a quiet one. The majority of the book consists of Tadis teaching Baz to open his mind and heart to life's possibilities as they walk along on their journey. While Baz and Tadis face obstacles on their journey, there is not a lot of adventure and action. The book contains some very powerful messages. It remains to be seen whether today's young readers can sit still long enough to hear them. Reviewer: Pat Trattles
Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Baz's coming-of-age journey exceeds all his expectations. The traditional Middle Eastern village in which Baz lives offers no opportunity for advancement. His father is a skilled woodcarver, but that does not seem to be Baz's destiny. He longs for anything that might bring adventure or even just an interesting break in the routine. After all, both of his brothers are learning trades far away. So when he is offered an apprenticeship, he is anxious to meet his future. There is an inevitable progression to Baz's journey, not only in distances traveled, but in lessons learned. Each of his masters, whether kind or cruel, has something to teach him, but it is Tadis the magician who has the most impact on him. During their travels together, Baz is exposed to people of many skills and personalities, and he experiences natural phenomena ranging from desert storms to earthquakes. From all this he learns patience, concentration and empathy. Herein lies both the strength and weakness of the work. Banks' lilting, soaring syntax and sympathetic characters and Sis' intricate, exquisite little illustrations do not completely compensate for the overly mystical obscurity of Tadis' nuggets of wisdom. Although everything turns out well for Baz, young readers may not really understand how it all came about. A moving, thoughtful apprentice tale. (Fantasy. 10-14)

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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The Magician's Apprentice

By Kate Banks, Peter Sis, First edition 2012

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2012 Kate Banks
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-34717-8


The promise had been made. Like any promise it sealed a commitment, but in a golden orb of hope and expectation. In the days that followed, the promise became a sort of roaming vision to Baz, a mysterious open door, imbued with the power to propel him into the future, to see himself as something more than he was.

The stranger had appeared, it seemed, from nowhere. He wandered into the village coupled with a horse whose dark satin coat he stroked rhythmically. Every so often he would whisper in the horse's ear. Then he would smile or laugh as though they were sharing a secret or a private joke. That made Baz wonder, with a touch of envy, if the stranger could speak the language of horses, or if the horse knew the stranger's tongue.

The stranger knew his destination. He didn't hesitate but went straight to the door of Baz's home, the last in a row of dwellings built of pale mud and stone. It was nearly sunset. The day was closing its large weary eye and the light was giving way to a sleepiness that made the stranger's presence even more commanding. His sudden appearance was a subtle reminder of the very enigma of existence.

Baz sat on a low wooden stool in the courtyard, a patch of pressed earth framed by smallish trees which, at this time of day, cast shadows much larger than they themselves. He was shelling nuts, separating the meats into a woven basket. The nuts had been drying for weeks now and it was time to open them, sample their ripe fruit. Tomorrow he would take them to the market to sell. He looked forward to that. The market seemed to Baz like the pulse of life with its colorful stalls where vendors sold dyed silks and cottons, dried fruits and beans, tea, spices, and clay pots baked in the sun to a brittle hardness.

In Baz's village, as in all places where each day appeared to be the same, etched in the shadow of the day before, strangers were a welcome intrusion, arousing curiosity, and sometimes suspicion. But strangers evoked something more: the notion that the village was connected to something much larger and more meaningful, giving significance to the small square of earth that defined it.

For several hours Baz had been shelling nuts, all of them much the same: the texture of their fine, thin skins, their meats, both hard and soft at once, the little knob that projected from their round fat bellies. His fingers had fallen into a repetitive motion, finding the weakness in the tough shells, applying pressure, then extracting the nut without breaking it. It was now summer, with hot, dry days that rolled into each other indistinguishably. Baz had often found himself wishing that something would happen to break the routine. He knew it was only a matter of time before the rain would come. It always had, and the earth, like himself, was a creature of habit. But as he sat shelling nuts, he longed for it to happen sooner, bringing weeks, months of wetness, changing the dress of the world. But he knew, too, that once the rain did come, it would soon become as monotonous as the heat had been.

Baz got to his feet and rested his eyes on the flowers in the garden, their bright colors rendered more intense by the sunset. He stared defiantly, willing their petals to fall, releasing that bottled-up energy, which, like his own, longed to escape. Then he lifted his eyes and fixed them on the figure walking toward him.

In the deepest recesses of his mind, Baz had been waiting for this moment. Now that it had come it was like the rain, bringing both relief and expectation. A few years back another man had ridden into the village. He had offered to take Baz's older brother and teach him a trade. A year later his second brother had left. Baz was the last, the third son.

"Your turn will come," his mother had said as Baz watched his brothers depart with a mixture of sadness and envy at what could only be seen as opportunity. "It is in the law of threes." The law of threes had dictated his very existence on this earth, his birth, his sex. And he suspected that his mother was right. It would dictate his parting someday.

His brothers had gone willingly, eager for change.

"You will return when you've learned all there is to know." That's what the man who had taken his second brother had said. Baz had thought then that he might never see his brother again, certain that no one could glean all there was to know in a single lifetime.

* * *

The stranger left his horse in the shade of an ancient plane tree. He did not tether it but allowed it the freedom to roam. Then the stranger walked up the rough stone walkway that led to Baz's door. There was no need to knock. Baz's mother had seen the visitor and was there to greet him. She had never turned away a stranger. It was not her way, or that of her people.

"I come from the west," said the stranger. "I have been traveling since sunrise." He had come from the mountains where the land deepened in depth and color. "I am moving toward the desert." The desert was where the land faded, becoming shallower with each step.

"Please come in and have tea with us," said Baz's mother, opening the door ever wider. Baz bowed slightly before the man, his elder. Then his father appeared and took the stranger's hands, as was their custom. "Welcome," he said.

The house smelled of dried spice, of tallow for soap and candles, of familiarity to Baz. He knew that the visitor would inhale this familiarity not with the same value or attachment that he did, but with an otherness, a newness. This made him sorry in a way. And as he tried to follow the stranger's gaze he saw his own surroundings differently, acutely aware of how perceptions were formed by habit. The rough woven cloth on the walls, the humble wooden objects his father had carved that lined the shelves, even the odor of nut oil rubbed into his skin, became foreign, strange, and otherly.

The white walls and beige tiled floor guarded the coolness of days, of time passed. But the fiery red cushions huddled comfortably around a low wooden table spoke of warmth and welcome.

The stranger seated himself across from Baz, folding his legs and placing his palms on his knees. Baz's mother brought the tea, a blend of jasmine and rose leaves, and a plate of sugary sweets. Then she took her place to the left of her son.

The visitor stroked a scarf wound loosely around his neck. His tunic with its wide bands of red, blue, and orange meant that he probably belonged to some tribe. Its loose weave and color made him look almost comical. He had come from afar. In Baz's village, they dressed in finely woven ivory, white, and beige, tones that reflected the sun. Only when the rains came did they don darker shades.

The stranger sipped his tea slowly, savoring each mouthful, rolling the hot liquid from one cheek to the other like a tiny ball. He picked delicately at the plate of sweets, playfully popping them into his mouth.

"Ahh," he sighed, satisfied. Then his eyes settled on Baz's father, who was refilling the cups of tea and whose hands gave away his trade. He was a craftsman, a wood-carver, but he was slowly losing his sight and feared that he wouldn't be able to work much longer. The stranger's gaze moved into the distance, to the room at the end of the house where Baz's father turned his creations. His father knew that this was the work he had been born for, and he settled into it each day with quiet dignity. In that room he felt a oneness that linked him to his creations, and to all that was. But he knew, too, that this work was not for his sons. He was as sure of it as he was that the rising sun was bound to set.

The stranger did not introduce himself but got right to the point of his visit. "I have come from Kallah, a weaving town," he said in a booming voice. "Surely you have heard of it," he added, slowing his words, nearly whispering. He was like a bard telling a tale, imbuing each syllable, each phrase, with suspense. He waved his hands in the air, another gesture that told Baz that this man was from afar. The people in Baz's village were more subdued, discreet. Without thinking, Baz let his eyes fall on the man's hands, which now cradled the teacup. They were large, with long graceful fingers, but the nails were hard- looking, framed in a thin line of dirt that traced the edges of his fingertips.

Suddenly the stranger put down his teacup and reached across the table. "So who have we here?" he said.

"I'm Baz," said the boy.

The stranger held Baz's hands in his own like a treasure. "There is always a need for young hands like these," he said. Then he tilted his head to one side. "Somewhat soft," he said, smiling. His teeth were pearly white and his gums pink. "But agile and nimble. Not the hands of a wood-carver, I'm afraid, but the hands of a weaver, yes."

The stranger released Baz's hands, then reached for his tea. He was practiced in the art of persuasion and knew that he must allow time for his words to settle into the minds and hearts of his audience. He already knew the answer to what he was about to suggest, but he waited patiently, making the proposal in due time.

"You, my boy, will be an apprentice to one of the greatest weavers in Kallah." He turned to Baz's mother and father. "He will learn the trade in return for his keep. Then in some future time he will be free to continue, in a superior role." The stranger paused. "Or return home," he said carelessly, the tone of his voice suggesting that Baz would never do that. The stranger turned to Baz. "As he wishes." Then he distanced himself, his eyes following the rays of light that had burst through the window, creating a pattern of dancing stripes across the floor.

"Do you wish to go, son?" Baz's father asked.

Baz did not have to think or reflect. He knew the answer as well as he knew his name.

"Yes," he said.

So the promise was made, and sealed in a show of clasped hands, his mother's small and soft, his father's square and rough, Baz's own long and nimble, and those of the stranger tinged with dirt.

"I will continue my journey," said the stranger, getting to his feet. "But I will return before the new moon."

Baz led the stranger out to where his horse was waiting next to the plane tree. "What is your name?" he asked.

"I do not have one name," said the stranger, frowning. "People call me many things. What would you call me?"

Baz did not have to think long. "You are the Man Who Loves His Horse," he said.

This made the stranger smile.

* * *

Baz reviewed his life, all sixteen years of it, with the sweet nostalgia that always comes before a parting. A film of dust settled like a pastel haze, covering any unpleasantness. He thought of the departure of his two brothers who had yet to return.

"I'll be back," he said to his mother. He repeated these same words many times to himself as if the repetition of the phrase would ensure its coming to pass.

"Of course you will," said his mother, hanging the washed clothes in the sun to dry. They were worn to a comfort much like Baz's own life.

In his mother's gaze Baz saw the soul of a woman who was seeing her child for the last time. Despite that, Baz did not think for a moment that he wouldn't go, nor did his parents, who shared the knowledge that they were doing what was right. They knew not where this came from. They could barely describe it beyond the feeling that sometimes in life certain things were meant to be. And this was one of them.

"Maybe the stranger won't return," said Baz's mother with a half smile.

Baz breathed in her scent, a mixture of smells coupled with sounds. In the corner sat an instrument that she played, some strings attached to a wooden frame. Baz had no idea where it had come from, only that it was something she'd always had, one of those things with no discernible origins, no real beginnings. It was simply there, a part of her.

"Maybe," said Baz, smiling back at her, attempting to build suspense into an event that had none because they all knew the truth. The stranger would return.

* * *

As Baz prepared for bed he lit a candle and watched the flame begin to flicker, mirroring the agitation he felt inside. He tried to stop it with his eyes, but it jumped even higher until he gave up.

He drifted into sleep, dreaming of water. A man appeared who wished to buy him. The man was smiling. But then the water rose, engulfing the image. And the night that had seemed so long when it lay ahead was suddenly over. The following days flew, too, until it seemed there were mere minutes between one moon and the next.


The stranger returned weary from the heat and travel. The bright colors of his tunic had faded, melting together like those of a sunset, and his skin had turned dark.

"Have you not been home?" Baz's mother asked.

"I do not have a home. I am but a messenger," said the stranger. "The world is my home." Then his voice dropped and his face became somber. "I have a message for you," he said.

"For me?" said Baz, puzzled.

"You will follow the light," he said.

"The light?" said Baz.

The stranger shrugged. "The birds, the trees, and the wind all tell me. My horse tells me. So I know it must be true."

Baz had no idea what the stranger was talking about, so for the time being he pushed his questions to the back of his mind.

* * *

Baz had tried to keep the moment of parting far from his thoughts, which leaped fleetingly back and forth between past and future. But when that time arrived, he wished to stay anchored in the moment where there was nothing but the present, his loving parents, and possibility.

"Goodbye, Baz," said his mother, hugging him.

"Good luck and good fortune, son," said his father, embracing his child.

Then it was over and Baz was traveling, seated on the back of a horse behind a stranger, distancing himself from all that he knew.

He carried a small sack laden with fresh tunics, heavy and light, trousers, leggings, and socks. He had stuffed his pockets with dried fruit, nuts, and tea, along with a wooden carving from his father, a small silver drinking vessel from his mother, and the few coins he'd saved. It wasn't long before he noticed that if he held the feeling of those objects—love and familiarity—while looking at something else, maybe a tree, or the sky, then those feelings would be re-created in that object. This was like magic to Baz. He wondered if others could do the same, and longed to ask the stranger. But the stranger seemed lost in his own thoughts, chewing on tobacco or something else, which had a foul smell and caused the saliva in his mouth to mount so that he had to spit frequently. When the stranger turned his head and parted his lips Baz caught a glimpse of his straight white teeth, which in a funny way reminded him of the tight rows of white houses he'd just left behind.

* * *

At first, they passed through villages much like Baz's own. Every so often the stranger would lean toward his horse and whisper in its ear.

"Does your horse have a name?" Baz asked.

"Melesh," said the stranger.

"Melesh," repeated Baz, leaning back to pet the horse's solid flank.

Baz watched the world pass. The colors of his own home began to fade into pale fields of wheat, yellow mustard, and sunflowers with their heads bent skyward. His mind wandered back to the stranger's message and he wondered how these plants could know more than he did.

When dusk fell they climbed down from the horse and continued on foot. The ground was dry, but a patch of pink and blue flowers had pushed through the stiff earth. Baz watched as the stranger, unaware, stepped on them with his heavy tread, flattening them. But their color resisted, looking more like a brushed sunset than ever.

"You must be hungry," the stranger said. He had stopped to give Melesh water. Then he lifted his tunic. Underneath, colored sacks of provisions were sewn into the lining. He looked funny to Baz, like a traveling tradesman exhibiting his wares.

"I've brought some food, too," said Baz, reaching into his own pockets.

The stranger held up a broad hand in protest. "No, no," he said. "You must keep that for later." He offered Baz some seeds, flatbread, and dried fruit. Then they drank water from a gourd.

At night they slept on a thick woven blanket laid out on the ground. Baz had always had something soft under him or next to him. This hardness was new and at first he resisted it, but then his tired body gave way and he sank into blissful slumber.

In the days that followed, the growth around them became sparser, stubbier, replaced by succulents that oozed a thick, clear, viscous fluid that the stranger would rub into his dry skin. At the beginning of their journey, Baz tried to remember the route, the landmarks, drawing a map in his mind for the day he would return home. But when the detail became too much he began to think of his journey in other ways.


Excerpted from The Magician's Apprentice by Kate Banks, Peter Sis, First edition 2012. Copyright © 2012 Kate Banks. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
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

Kate Banks is the award-winning author of many books, including most recently This Baby. She lives in the south of France.

Peter Sis is the three-time Caldecott-Honor writer/illustrator of many books, including Tibet Through the Red Box. He lives in Westchester County, New York.

Kate Banks has written many books for children, among them Max’s Words, And If the Moon Could Talk, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and The Night Worker, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award. She grew up in Maine, where she and her two sisters and brother spent a lot of time outdoors, and where Banks developed an early love of reading. “I especially liked picture books,” she says, “and the way in which words and illustrations could create a whole new world in which sometimes real and other times magical and unexpected things could happen.” Banks attended Wellesley College and received her master's in history at Columbia University. She lived in Rome for eight years but now lives in the South of France with her husband and two sons, Peter Anton and Maximilian.

Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker. He was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and the Royal College of Art in London. Peter is a seven-time winner of The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a two-time Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honoree, and has won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal twice. Peter's books, Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei, Tibet through the Red Box, and The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain were all named Caldecott Honor books by the American Library Association. The Wall was also awarded the Robert F. Sibert Medal.

In addition, Peter Sís is the first children’s book illustrator to win the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. He was chosen to deliver the 2012 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture for the Association for Library Service to Children. Peter won the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award. This award is considered the most prestigious in international children's literature, given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People.

Peter Sís lives in the New York City area with his wife and children.

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