Hither & Nigh

Margaret K. McElderry. Sept. 2022. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781665910385.
Gr 4-8–A New York City seventh grader at Bright Futures Academy, Nell Batista faces detention with eighth graders Annika, “Crud,” and Tom. Annika has brown hair and green eyes; Crud has dark hair; Tom has yellow hair and blue eyes. They are startled when their detention monitor, Mr. Boot, announces he is there to teach them magic using chopsticks. That day, each of them is permitted to wish for something lost, and Nell chooses her missing brother, River, who disappeared three years ago from Washington Square Park. Nell’s life becomes a dizzying mix of magic classes, everyday problems with friends and family, and eventually, a journey to the Nigh—a parallel realm where magical beings dwell. Nell returns to Hither (her world) but suspects her brother River was brought to Nigh, and makes another expedition there with her friends. This is a whimsical, ambitious story, built by children’s imagination and numerous significant subplots. It is grounded by Nell’s first-person storytelling and her love for River. The abundance of plotting is further anchored by the moral decisions each character must make: should Nell cage a magical creature to find her brother? Did Annika use social media to bully a classmate? Universal realistic themes are used as jumping-off points for magical elevators, talking park statues, and other fantastical details that readers will find appealing, and the action ends on a cliffhanger that will leave tweens wanting more. No skin tones are described.
VERDICT A domestic fantasy that covers a lot of ground with solid character development, this novel will be enjoyed by many readers.

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