- Age Range: 8 - 12 years
- Grade Level: 5 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 900 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Chronicle Books (June 26, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1452159580
- ISBN-13: 978-1452159584
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Language of Spells Hardcover – June 26, 2018
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From School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—In the decades that Grisha was a teapot, the world almost forgot how to see magic. So when Grisha is restored to his proper dragon form, he finds himself called, along with all the remaining dragons, to Vienna by an unknown magic. Years pass, and he meets a uniquely magical girl named Maggie who struggles to fit into a human world where she has no friends except her eccentric poet father and has no memories of her long-dead mother. Through their powerful connection, Maggie becomes happy and Grisha soon remembers the fate of other dragons, those without golden eyes like his, and begins a quest with Maggie to wake them from a spell gone wrong. But magic, as shown by the dragons and magical cats who control them, requires sacrifice and giving up the thing most precious to you. Will Maggie be willing to save the unjustly punished dragons? This quiet and somewhat melancholy novel focuses more on the power of friendship than on fantasy, and reminds readers that there might be magic all around us, even if we cannot see it. It also is about finding one's purpose and place in the world. By calculation, Maggie is born in the 1990s, but the Vienna setting feels more like the early 19th century; this is an atmospheric and ethereal tale. Final art not seen. VERDICT An unexpected page-turner, this will appeal to readers who like emotional poignancy with their adventure.—Clare A. Dombrowski, Amesbury Public Library, MA
"A friendship between a child named Maggie and a dragon named Grisha is at the heart of this transportive, adventure-filled book about magic, connection, and shared history."--Southern Living
"Young readers will gravitate to Grisha and Maggie, and, sadly, smile at the book's poignant ending." -VOYA
"What a writer! What a setting! So many gorgeous sentences! I loved it. The enchantment of a tender, empowering friendship builds so softly, so gradually, and with so much force that, before you realize what's happened, you've gone over the edge and there's no turning back. A coming of age tale combined with an ageless fantasy. Wise and sweet, sharp and dear, a poem of a story. " -Karen Romano Young, author of Hundred Percent and Doodlebug
"Sometimes, when I've gotten too bogged down with churning through books and reviews, I get a little disenchanted with reading. I forget the magical feeling that comes with losing myself in a good book. But then I read something like The Language of Spells and I remember all over again." --Reading Till Dawn
"Reminds readers that there might be magic all around us, even if we cannot see it." -School Library Journal
"Reading Garret's story was like being with an old friend. Where there are dragons, there is a story; let this lovely tale weave its spell."-Kathi Appelt, author of National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor book The Underneath
"Offers eccentric charm, sweetness, life lessons, Latin, and more than a bit of heartbreak." —Common Sense Media
"Lovely and lyrical.. extraordinary piece on grace and, finally, love." - Booklist, starred review
"I loved this world, it was wonderfully whimsical and sometimes very sad, and it just blew me away." --Cover2Cover
"Extraordinary-not to be missed." -Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Also, I am glad there is such a quality fantasy tale in the world, much needed in today's times and very very hard to find.
A dragon and an 11 year old girl become friends and go on a quest to free dragons that are under a sleeping curse, imprisoned beneath Vienna. Talking cats, an evil magician who turns Grisha into a teapot, and a strong lesson in discrimination feature in this fantasy novel with pencil-sketch illustration sprinkled in.
Grisha the dragon was a teapot for hundreds of years. After being freed, he finds out all the dragons have been drawn to Vienna and goes there to be with them. The dragons are not free to leave Vienna, and are subject to heavy regulation and strict enforcement. They gather nightly in the bar at the Sacher Hotel, where young Maggie lives with her father Alexander, a poet. Her artist mother died years ago. She finds friendship with Grisha, and after he remembers that half the dragons have been imprisoned, they embark on a quest to free them. The evil magician who imprisoned Grisha in a teapot all those years ago is the one who has cursed the dragons. Maggie learns about magic, travels with Grisha, and eventually they find a way to free the sleeping dragons. There is a sad twist at the end. (view spoiler)
The book would be great read aloud, it really lends itself to that. I thought the segregation and oppression of the dragons was well done, and would be a good lesson for kids without being overwhelming. The ending felt abrupt to me, I was very surprised to turn the page at the end and be done! [We do not find out if Maggie ever saw dragons again, and we never find out if Leopold the evil magician dies, or if the cats are freed, or what happens to the awoken dragons. (hide spoiler)] Maggie is a smart character, I would be happy for my daughter to read this book with a strong female lead.
After a long enchantment as a teapot, Benevolentia “Grisha” Gaudium finds himself in Vienna. Other dragons have also arrived in the city, answering an inexplicable call only they could hear. Grisha didn’t hear the call, but he finds out from a dear human friend that the other dragons are headed for Austria and Grisha knows he must go too.
He arrives at the famous Hotel Sacher in Vienna and meets more dragons than he has in many years. Life was lonely as a teapot. His new friend circle includes dragons who have experienced all sorts of adventures; while he finds their bragging a little tiresome, he’s happy to be among his own kind again.
Soldiers have the task of keeping the dragons organized. Grisha gets a job in one of the castles along the Danube river. Other dragons also get assigned work, and the Department of Extinct Exotics, or D.E.E., is formed to make sure the dragons stay on task. Dozens of the dragons go missing, however, and Grisha and his friends don’t know why.
Then Grisha meets Anna “Maggie” Marguerite. Maggie and her father live in the Hotel Sacher. They moved there after Maggie’s mother dies in a terrible accident, although Maggie has no memory of the accident or of her mother. Maggie finds in Grisha her first friend, and the two become inseparable. They explore the city together, and Maggie is thrilled that Grisha doesn’t eye her in a strange way as children do when she asks questions. He’s more than happy to provide answers or help her find them.
Except he can’t answer the question about the missing dragons. Why were they banished? Who made the decision to send those dragons away? Most importantly: where did they go?
Grisha seems reluctant to consider any of these matters. After all those years under the enchantment, he doesn’t want to jeopardize his position with the D.E.E. and come under scrutiny himself. He also can’t ignore Maggie’s questions, however, and soon enough the two set out on a mission: to find the missing dragons and free them.
Author Garret Weyr takes an interesting concept and lets it unravel, much to the novel’s detriment. The book stands at 299 pages, and Maggie and Grisha don’t meet until almost a third of the way into the story. Weyr spends the first third of the book describing Grisha’s life both before and during his enchantment as a teapot, taking up precious story real estate. Some of the elements are interesting, but many of them were unnecessary.
The sluggish pace continues even after Maggie and Grisha become friends. The moments they share are sweet and a constant gentle reminder to readers that friendships can come with “beings” [read: people] of all different backgrounds and looks. Weyr offers many examples of this tenet, sacrificing pacing and plot development in the process.
Many unexplained things about the world of magic stay that way with the book’s omniscient narrator using phrases like, “No one knew why…”. Readers might appreciate some of the mystery, but part of a book’s charm is to find out secrets. The target audience, while younger, may not appreciate this constant cloak-and-dagger approach to underdeveloped story elements.
While the ending may surprise many, it will take an incredibly patient reader to get there. Maggie and Grisha are likeable as characters, endearing even, but the story around them doesn’t do them or their friendship any justice. I recommend readers Bypass The Language of Spells