The Incredible Magic of Being

256p. Scholastic. Oct. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338148510.
Gr 5–8—Nine-year-old Julian is an unusual kid. He's seriously obsessed with space, he has friends in alternate universes, he wears a life preserver at all times to feel safe around water…and he sometimes has the magical ability to know what others are thinking. In an energetic inner monologue interspersed with physics facts, he tells the story of his family's move to rural Maine and their growing connection with an elderly man. The protagonist, his 14-year-old sister Pookie, their mom, and their stepmother Joan have left Washington, DC, behind for the slower pace of owning a lakeside bed-and-breakfast. Their loving family is going through a rough time: Pookie snarls with chronic teenage resentment, Julian's behavior is so extreme that his uber-anxious mom wants to homeschool him to avoid further bullying; his parents also worry about his mysterious health issues. When their retired neighbor sends a lawyer over because their new bed-and-breakfast addition illegally blocks his water view, Pookie decides the best way to lower the collective stress level is for Julian to befriend "Mr. X" next door and convince him to drop his lawsuit. The resulting interactions lead to a happy ending that changes everyone's lives. Julian's distinctive narration, awash in supernatural perceptions as well as a nine-year-old's natural misconceptions, is a tour de force on par with that of Ted Spark in Siobhan Dowd's The London Eye Mystery and Salamanca Tree Hiddle's journey in Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons.
VERDICT Touching contemporary magical realism, with a final twist that truly surprises.

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