Chapter Books - Magical Feed

The Houdini Box by Brian Selznick

The Houdini BoxAlfred A Knox, New York, 1991

Hardcover, 56 pages

ISBN: 978-0-6799-1429-7

Suggested reading age: 7+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

As a kid I can remember being fascinated by magicians, especially Harry Houdini.  I remember reading about how he did his magic tricks and trying to escape from ropes tied around my wrist.  The hero of this story is much the same as that little Indrani.  A young boy fascinated by Harry Houdini tries to escape from a locked suitcase and hold his breath under water for as long as he can.  One day, a chance encounter with Houdini leads to the boy being given a locked box by the magician.  What does it hold?  Will it reveal Houdini's secrets?

This book is longer than a picture book but doesn't have chapters.   It would suit readers who are growing out of picture books but not quite ready for a long chapter book.  Beautiflu pencil illustrations accompany the story.

Jane on Her Own: A Catwings Tale by Ursula K Le Guin and S.D. Schindler

Jane on her ownOrchard Books, NY, 1999

Hardback, 42 pages

ISBN: 978-0-5313-3133-0

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

The queen of fantasy, Ursula K Le Guin has written a gorgeous tale for younger readers.  Complete with colour illustrations by S.D. Schindler, this is a lovely tale about being different and finding your place in spite of the difficulties and dangers that being different can create.  Jane, the heroine of the story is a cat with wings who longs to venture out into the wider world, in spite of all the dangers.  She longs for adventure and new friends.

Other titles in this series: Catwings, Catwings Return, Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings

The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch - Wishing Star

Puffin, London, 2013

Hardback, 200 pages

ISBN: 978-0-141-38339-6

Suggested reading age: 5+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: ****

Long before Harry Potter and his friends took the world by storm, there was another boarding school for sorcery - Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches.  First published in 1974, the Worst Witch series of books are written and illustrated by the supremely talented Jill Murphy and feature the accident prone Mildred Hubble.

In this book, Mildred Hubble is given the job of being lantern monitor.  Can she manage to fly around the castle on her broomstick every evening to the light the candles and again every morning to douse the candles without causing a mishap?  The bite size chapters and gentle story make this a perfect bedtime story for little folks.  There is also enough adventure and excitement to keep older readers entertained.

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Fly By Night

Macmillan Children's Books, London, 2006

Paperback, 448 pages

ISBN: 978-0-3304-1826-3

Suggested reading age: 14+

Reviewed by: Indrani Perera

Rating: *****

 This book is a rare treat, filled with jewel like prose and a cracking tale.  I was torn between savouring every word and racing ahead see what happened next.  Fly By Night is the tale of young Mosca Mye, an orphan who burns down her uncle's mill and runs away with a mysterious stranger who has a way with words.  She lives in a world where every day belongs to a Beloved.  If you are lucky enough to be born on the day of Goodman Boniface you are a child of the sun and can be called Auroa or Solina.  If, however, you are born on the day sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns you are named after an insect.  And that is how Mosca was named.

Ms Hardinge has created a rich, believable and fresh world.  Her imagination is incredible and the plot kept me guessing to the very end.  I didn't want the story to end but had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to Mosca next.   I only hope that Frances Hardinge has written more books for me to devour and savour.