From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-When Lucy Martin moves to the house in Iowa that her father inherited from his Aunt Lavonne, she hopes to solve the mystery of Lavonne's brother's disappearance in 1914, when he was 14. He supposedly rowed off in a boat on a magical ocean that lapped at the garden gate. When Lucy finds the Book of Story Beginnings
and writes in it about a girl whose father was a magician, her father becomes a magician who has invented a transforming potion. He turns into a crow and flies away from the cat, who then becomes Oscar, the long-lost boy. Lucy and Oscar then have to find a way over the magical ocean to bring back Lucy's father, who has flown to the land invented by Oscar when he wrote his story beginnings in the magical book. The characters are well rounded and interesting, and Oscar's plight when he is transformed back into a boy and discovers that his entire family is dead is sympathetically and realistically portrayed. While sections of the story at the beginning and end are exciting and even thrilling, the middle section moves slowly and the adventure drags in places. Still, this is an interesting investigation into the power of writing and story, along with a warm and believable look at the relationship of two young people from different eras who become family to one another.-Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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Gr. 4-6. When 12-year-old Lucy and her parents move to the farmhouse where her father's family has lived for generations, she hopes to solve the mystery of her great-uncle Oscar's disappearance in 1914, when he was 14. Soon she discovers Oscar's notebook, the mysterious "Book of Story Beginnings," and even Oscar himself, who has returned from another world and, still a teenager, finds his parents gone and his community incomprehensibly different from when he left. Realizing that by beginning a new story in the enchanted book she has placed her father in deadly peril, Lucy enlists Oscar's help to take her into that otherworld where their stories have come to life not in dreams but as cold, hard reality. Accented by a fine description of an ocean magically appearing in the Iowa countryside, Kladstrup's first novel offers mystery, adventure, and fantasy, as well as reflections on family dynamics, time travel, and the structure of stories. If that sounds like a plateful, it is, but many readers will find something here to their liking. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved