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I'm always on the lookout for books for older kids and adults that are well
written and lack the exploitations of illicit language, violence and
relationships that are found in so many best sellers.  "Jonathan Strange and
Mr. Norrell," by Susanna Clarke, is a wonderful fantasy book filled with rich
language and mesmerizing character study in the style equated with Emily
Bronte or Jane Austin.

Mr. Norrell has recently been proclaimed the one and only magician in 1807
England.  He has sought out other would-be magicians and made them swear, by
an oath, to never try magic again if he were able to demonstrate some level
of "magicianship" to them.  When he magically brings to life solid-state
statues that surround a church, men of this magic order proclaim him the
honor and leave the profession immediately.  Actually, they hadn't been able
to produce any sort of magic, nor their predecessors for many, many years.
So, when Mr. Norrell suddenly arrives on the scene, everyone gathering in
the City of York proclaims that England has, at last, a practicing magician.

Mr. Norrell moves to London to make his magic known to all and is besotted
with the attention given him.  But he has to try his magic on a difficult
subject and is worried about the outcome.  Sir Walter Pole is a high-ranking
cabinet member and is about to marry when the magician meets up with him.
When Sir Walter's impending bride-to-be suddenly dies, Mr. Norrell takes it
upon himself to come to Sir Walter's aid.  As he discusses the possibility
of bringing Sir Walter's loved one back to life, the groom seems distant and
uncertain about these events.  Mr. Norrell, however, decides to attempt this
magical feat but is concerned of the outcome himself.  A magical fairy
appears during the brink of the spell and makes a deal with the magician.
"Grant me half the lady's life and the deal is done."  Mr. Norrell decides
that half the life
of Miss Wintertowne is better than no life at all, since she was already
dead.  But he's also very suspicious and concerned that this magical man
might try to trick him.

You'll find this part of the story surprising and unpredictable.  The story
moves from one magical moment to another, as the author spins a story so
involved and complicated you will likely find yourself believing in magic.
You won't meet Jonathan Strange, the other English magician, until about 200
pages into the book.  His life is meandering in meaningless searches for a
lifelong occupation when he accidentally (or purposefully) falls into this
enchanted trade.  When both men finally meet, the characters are so well
described that you attain a profoundly commiserative opinion of them.

Ms. Clarke has footnotes all of the way through the story which adds to the
majesty of her extraordinary tale.  At first, the footnotes bothered me
because I was used to boring footnotes from biographical studies that merely
backed information with facts.  But these footnotes are almost stories in
themselves as you read interesting asides and accounts that only add to the
main story.  I am amazed that this is the author's first book.  It reads
with the genius of J. R. R. Tolkein and the eloquence of Charlotte Bronte.
Even J.K. Rowling would be proud.  (However, I hesitate to compare Ms.
Clarke's work with the Harry Potter series because it doesn't't have the
gripping action that Rowling is known for.)  I know there are many of you
out there that want to "sink your teeth" into a book that is rich, full and
inviting.  Here is your book.  It has almost 800 pages with pencil
renderings sprinkled throughout expertly drawn by Portia Rosenberg.  My
faith in excellent advanced literature for the older student has been
renewed!  This is a great book for high school ages and above.


n


Are you looking for a book for those who love books?  Wild About Books, by
Judy Sierra, will have you wild about this picture book.  Ms. Sierra rhymes
all of the way through the text with the ease of her tribute:  Dr. Seuss.
Molly McGrew has mistakenly ridden her bookmobile into the zoo.  She takes
out a chair and sits out amongst the animals and begins to read to them.
What do the animals do?  They immediately capture the love of reading, and
before you know it, all of the animals everywhere in the zoo are reading.
Her clever poetic rhyming will bring smiles and her clever injections of
spelling and haiku will make you laugh.   For instance, there's the "llamas
read dramas while eating their lunches."   And at the insect zoo where they
wrote in haiku, the "scorpion gave each a stinging review."

The pictures, by the creator of Arthur-Marc Brown, are dazzling, inviting
and wonderful. Every page has different types of animals reading books.
Some pages even state the names of favorite books.  For instance, the boa
constrictor is squeezing his book:  Crictor.  A bunch of baby bunnies are
pawing Goodnight Moon.  And enormous termites are consuming The Wizard of
Oz.   What better way to celebrate and encourage reading than with this
brilliant book celebrating my favorite subject!  This is perfect for ages 4
to 8.