Nothing Up My Sleeve

400p. ebook available. Little, Brown. Apr. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316340878; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316340892.
Gr 4–6—Vanishing acts, illusions, sleights of hand, and much magic infuse this middle grade novel. Over the summer, a trio of competitive friends haphazardly visit Conjuring Cats, a shop that not only sells amazing tricks but also focuses on training new magicians. Soon, Dominic, Loop, and Z learn of a magic competition just for teens, but myriad obstacles stand in the way of each of the boys. As they prepare specific tricks and techniques, their frustrations mirror their individual weaknesses, which must all be conquered to successfully perform at the magic competition. Expenses, family dynamics, performance nerves, and magic skill become quite a tangle of challenges for the trio. In the end, through practicing magic, the boys learn much more about themselves, their friendship, and their families. López skillfully balances a realistically based friendship story with ample doses of magical elements. Students will be able to relate to these tweens who have authentic, everyday struggles: divorced parents, academic challenges, and financial troubles. Her layered plot will keep middle grade readers engaged, as chapters alternate focus among Loop, Dominic, and Z. Character development is strong, and personal thoughts and emotions are transparent as readers delve deeper into each boy's personal life. Children will be dazzled by López's inclusion of special techniques, popular tricks, and references to famed magicians; most readers will be tempted to try replicating the tricks on their own.
VERDICT Intriguing magic and authentic perspectives make this a strong addition for middle grade collections in schools and public libraries.

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