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A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 6, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—A single narrator, using alternating chapters, tells the tale of two 12-year-old girls: Kai, who is visiting her unusual but lovable great-aunt Lavinia in Texas for the summer, and Leila, who is spending her summer in Pakistan, her father's birthplace. Kai, voted weirdest in her class that year, is a loner, overly protected by her mother and expected to practice her violin at all hours. While unpacking in the guest room, Kai finds an old book titled The Exquisite Corpse. Excited to read it, she is disappointed that it contains an odd introduction and only one line of handwritten text, a name: Ralph T. Flabbergast. Guided by some strange intuition, she pens the words "was a complete fool" after his name. This is her first mistake. Now, each time she opens the book, more writing appears. At the same time in Pakistan, Leila, who reads far too many romantic novels and is hoping for an "authentic cultural experience" in her father's land, discovers the very same text in her great-uncle's library. Leila sets out to read the strange handwritten story of Ralph T. Flabbergast but is soon distracted as a beautiful silver and green moth floats in through her window. Momentarily stunned by its luminescence, Leila forgets all about the book. When the moth flies back out the window, Leila is astounded to see a new sentence on the bottom of the page, "Wasn't that beautiful?" It's as if the book is talking to her. Back in Texas, Kai meets Doodle, a young girl out to catch the Celestial Moth, rumored to be almost extinct in this part of the world. Her adventures with Doodle and their subsequent search for the elusive moth, as well as Leila's cultural gaffes around her family, lead readers on a rollicking adventure, complete with a suspiciously operated casket company, a (sort of) pet goat, and an obsession with Pakistani Idol. In the meantime, the story of The Exquisite Corpse unfolds, telling a tale of forbidden love and magic. Papademetriou's tale is sure to please readers who love a fast-paced, clever mystery. VERDICT With magic and humor, this is an excellent addition to middle grade collections.—Carol Connor, Cincinnati Public Schools, OH
“Lisa Papademetriou’s prose and sense of place dazzles the ear and eye, while the adventure and mystery binds us from page to page. Now that’s sleight of hand!” (Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor Winner)
“Magic! It’s everywhere—in music, in moths, in an old handwritten book. But the real magic is the exquisite storytelling that sweeps us along until the last wonderful page. This is a book that leaves shimmers in the very air.” (Kathi Appelt, New York Times bestselling author of The Underneath and Keeper)
“A lively, heartwarming, sometimes perilous tale packed with creepy elements, appealing characters…and more than a few laughs.” (Common Sense Media)
“A rollicking adventure... Engaging and appealing, especially to those who have never quite fit in, this novel is sure to satisfy.” (School Library Journal)
“Begging to be read aloud, this is a fun book for middle grade readers, and it will surely inspire them to read—and write—more.” (Booklist)
“A beguiling tale of... enduring love and nascent self-discovery.” (Kirkus)
“The developing mystery and the promise of new friendships and second chances make for emotionally satisfying engagement… Despite the contemporary setting, the book has an old-fashioned quality of domestic fantasy that will appeal to fans of E. Nesbit and Edward Eager.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“I, for one, did not want the story to end.” (Time for Kids)
Top customer reviews
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On the other side of the world, in Pakistan, Leila is visiting her father’s family. She is walking through the family library and finds a strange book with only one full page, and a handwritten sentence. It is called The Exquisite Corpse. She ends up writing another sentence after the paragraphs ended.
And so the adventure begins connecting two different worlds.
What I Thought- This was a fun book. I really enjoyed reading about how the two girls and how they interacted without realizing it. It was neat seeing how the stories connected to each other as the book unfolded. The characters are realistic, and Ms. Papademetriou does a great job at making it so that it is a believable story. Kai and Leila are both out of their comfort zones – Leila is in a mostly Muslim country with more strict expectations but she was raised in a more liberal environment. Kai’s single mother is slightly protective of her, and Kai’s great-aunt lets her run around the small town after dark. It is a culture shock to both of them and you can see as they both get accustomed to their surroundings a little, and they find out more about themselves in the process. I found it funny that by the end of the book, it turns out that Leila and Kai live in the same city (but the book doesn’t say if they meet) – Awesome ending!!!
*NOTE* I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book