THE WALL AND THE WING by Laura Ruby (HarperCollins)
Would you rather have the power of invisibility, or the power to fly? This was the question that nagged at the author, and you'll be able to guess her own preference when you read this book! Gurl, an orphaned pariah ensnared in the clutches of the avaricious (and slightly stylish) matron of Hope House for the Homeless and Hopeless, has been coerced into a seemingly endless loop of larceny by the empty promise that a mysterious kitten she found will be returned to her. Just when there seems to be no light at the end of the subway tunnel, Gurl's own remarkable abilities appear; not only to vanish, but to be there for an unlikely friend named Bug. These gifts might be enough to give them both their happily ever after, if they play their cards just right.
In all honesty, my visceral response to this book was: finally, a fantasy I can finish! I've boarded so many flights of fancy in which the author drops the reader off of the magic carpet somewhere over Bora-Bora, so it was great to be hanging on for the whole ride. In a dreamlike vision of a place akin to New York City, we find subways stocked with vampires and albino alligators, gangsters who can unzip their faces, professors with green grass toupees, and mechanical monkeys who keep secrets that cymbal-ize the backstories that are the key to moving forward. It was refreshing to have an invented setting so fully realized and a plot that was genuinely pageturning, and there was something brave about the author's willingness to really let her imagination go no-holds-barred. Who can help being a little breathless after such a ride?
Throughly modern, slightly snarky and with a wholly original flavor, there is no need to compare with Harry Potter; with The Wall and the Wing, American fantasy takes full flight. (11 and up)
Not to be confused with this book, also of interest:
THE WAND IN THE WORD: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy edited by Leonard S. Marcus (Candlewick) (Who's here? Let's take attendance: Madeline L'Engle? Tamora Pierce? Brian Jacques? Ursula LeGuin? Philip Pullman? Susan Cooper? Garth Nix? Thirteen of the most magical minds in the business are all present and answering questions that will make students of fanatsy of us all.) (10 and up)
And for fledgling fantasy fans:
Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (HarperCollins)(An ambitious little British orphan uses the skills of hypnotism learned from a magical book found in the library, and takes her act all the way to Broadway. Meanwhile, a nefarious villain is looking to borrow the book whether she's done with it or not.) (9 and up)
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (Random House) (One of the most timely and provocative fantasies about a city running out of resources, and two children who set out to solve the problem. If you haven't read this, move it to the top of your list! I cried when it didn't win a Newbery. First in a trilogy; fans, be alerted that the newest, The Prophet of Yonwood, has just been recently released!) (9 and up)
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