Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Door in the Sky by Sandy Klein Bernstein

It all started with a stolen magic spell. Throw in a powerful sorceress, a teen alchemist in desperate need of a haircut, a fearless king in love with a hot-tempered witch, a demonic shadow with a penchant for turning to mist, a cunning cellar sprite, and an army of invisible knights - all looking for a pair of bickering Earthlings...

"Come back here at midnight, Ricky"

11-year-old Ricky watches in stunned silence as those words magically appear in the stars during a show at the Chicago Space Museum. But why can't anyone else see the message? And why must he bring Jello?
His teenage sister, Allie, follows him back to the theater at midnight. They're both whisked through a door in the sky to the kingdom of Galdoren, where they quickly befriend a mischievous star and make a powerful enemy of Queen Glacidia, a witch who rules over a land of never-ending winter.
On their quest to reach a castle riddled with secrets, the siblings will encounter a magic carpet with a terrible sense of direction, a cowardly dragon, a hero in a flying wheelchair, and a candy farm with exploding fields of overripe Red Hots.
Will that scruffy teen alchemist, Henry, be able to master his spell book in time to help? And will Ricky ever get the hang of flying, or will he forever be banging his head against the light fixtures?
The Door in the Sky will transport you to a world overflowing with magic, breathless adventure, and laugh-out-loud humor. Each cliff-hanging chapter will keep you reading well past your bedtime and burning up the batteries to your book light.

This is a lovely middle grade book that will entertain and delight younger readers.

There is such a great amount of world-building here, so much that middle graders will absolutely love. I think even kinds younger than that will also enjoy the many creatures and magical moments in this book. There is a good balance between the world building and the plot line, so that we never feel overwhelmed by the details, but we are also never left confused as to what happened. This is crucial when writing for younger audiences, since they tend to lose concentration if they don’t understand something in the plot.

The writing is fresh and fun. There were a few moments where I felt it was a little too “cute’ for me, but that might just be a personal taste issue. The main characters were lots of fun, all of them quirky in their own way. Ricky, the protagonist, was my favorite. He’s a well written, unlikely hero with whom kids will easily identify.

I recommend this book to middle graders who love fantasy and adventure.

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