River Magic

Dial. Apr. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525428046.
Gr 5 Up–Another engaging fantasy set in the real world from Booraem. Donna’s life is a wreck. Aunt Annabelle recently drowned and Donna’s best friend Rachel has drifted away. To make matters worse, her single mom and high school–age sister can barely pay the bills, so it’s up to Donna to do all the chores. When a voice in her head sounds like Aunt Annabelle giving her chore advice, the new neighbor pays her in gold for cleaning her house, and the weird kid at school turns out to have some common interests, things seem to be okay for a minute. Then Donna discovers the voice is a river dragon’s, the gold is addictive, and the neighbor is a thunder mage who is turning everyone in the town into chickens. It takes the help of her new friend and the basketball team, along with the River Dragon to save her town, her house, and her family. Readers will root for quirky, charming Donna throughout, though they may wonder what she looks like (not described) and how old she is (her school has lockers and class periods, but also recess.) While there is a lot going on plot-wise, the story is woven together believably, though the chickens challenge suspension of disbelief more than the dragon, pixies, and thunder mage.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw who don’t mind a bit of off-the-wall chicken magic.

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