A Most Magical Girl

illus. by Elly MacKay. 304p. Knopf. Aug. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553512854; lib. ed. $19.99. ISBN 9780553512861.
Gr 4–7—Thirteen-year-old Annabel Grey was raised to be a proper young lady. Her loftiest dreams involve her best friend, dresses, and a brand-new pair of green ice skates. Then, in the turn of a day, her mother goes abroad, leaving her with aunts she's never known. Annabel jarringly learns that the visions she's always seen in puddles were just an inkling of the magical world surrounding her, one from which her mother was estranged and to which she has now been returned. Seemingly minutes after she arrives at the magic shop owned by her aunts, the Vine sisters, a dark wizard named Mr. Angel arrives. He has constructed a dark magic machine and conjured shadowlings in a bid to take over all of London and dissolve good magic. Annabel's journey to Under London to retrieve the white wand in an effort to save everyone from Mr. Angel's nefarious plans ultimately becomes one of self-discovery in which she comes to terms with her new identity and embraces bravery, chance, and unexpected friendships. Many scenes are richly described, from dark, foggy, sinister London to an unwelcome delay in the troll dwellings of Under London. Yet ultimately some characters and elements feel underdeveloped. The brevity of the period before Annabel leaves her old life, as well as the abruptness with which the story wraps up after her quest ends, makes for a shallow backstory. Further, the tale centers on the battle between dark and light, in which light, or good, is often called "white" (the white wand; her pure white, unmapped skin) and dark, or evil, is often "black" (the black wand, black fog, black wave of destruction). Though this is of course an age-old trope, one wishes different, more inclusive naming conventions had been employed.
VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries where Foxlee's Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy proved popular.

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