01 October, 2013

The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog - Review & Giveaway (Intl ends 10/17)

Publication date: 1 October 2013 by Holiday House
ISBN 10/13: 0823428699 | 9780823428694)

Category: Middle Grade Fiction
Source: ARC provided by Publisher, Holiday House
Format: Hardcover, ebook

About the book:

Peter Lubinsky doesn't even like dogs and can't understand why he asked for one for his birthday. But it turns out that this pet, whom Peter calls "The Dog", can talk and do magic—and he needs Peter's help. In return, The Dog promises to teach Peter conjuring and to help him bring his father home from the Middle East, where he is deployed with the air force. Soon Peter finds himself flying through the air on a mission to rescue The Dog's master. But as Peter's magical powers grow, he finds himself filled with a dark anger.

A bedroom full of dinosaur fossils, a waiter who was formerly a mouse, and an epic battle of magician's make for a thrilling read. This imaginative middle-grade fantasy is about the power of enchantment and love.

Alethea's review:

I'm normally not a fan of talking-animal books, unless it's something like Redwall or Mouseguard where the world is populated with anthropomorphized creatures. However, The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog manages to make me forget this little peeve of mine. It's a story with heart, hope, and a big imagination. While exploring feelings of loss, anger, and selfishness, Frances Sackett writes an endearing tale of friendship and family in this debut middle grade novel.

Peter is a relatable and imperfect protagonist, "ordinarily good," and his sisters Celia and Izzy make great sidekicks. Their dynamic as a family, especially one whose dad is far away and whose mom is busy working, keeps this story fun and modern, as well as emotional but without being too precious. They fight and make up and they judge each other as siblings do, but at the end of the day (magic is best done under cover of darkness, or people will ask questions!) they are family and they stick together. Sackett balances their comic sibling antics with Peter's introspection as he tries to determine what is right and what is wrong, in the middle of feeling shut out, left behind, and just plain wrong.

The Dog is a new member of the family and he's quite enigmatic. As he reveals more about what he can do and why it is possible for Peter to do magic, Peter discovers things about himself--and he doesn't like some of these revelations. Why was he so mean to his dad the morning he left for his deployment? Why do his daily emails make him feel awkward and useless? Why did dad have to go in the first place, and shouldn't he work hard to learn magic to bring him back? Throughout the book, he struggles with figuring out what is the right thing to do, but whereas ordinary good decisions seem pretty obvious, extraordinary ones are a little harder to discern.

Eventually, the kids discover the limits and consequences of using magic. They discover a creepy house filled with enchanted servants and--gulp!--dinosaurs. Their mission is to save the magician from himself, but who will save them? You'll have to read it to find out. The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog uses humor, flights of fancy, and family values to tell a story that is both insightful and entertaining. For an excerpt, visit the publisher's website.

Frances Sackett studied creative writing at Harvard and has an MFA from Mills College. She currently edits reports for the state of California as well as teaches writing classes for state auditors. This is her first book. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Author's website

Buy the book on
Barnes & Noble

If you are in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 5 at 2 pm, meet Frances and buy a signed copy during her book launch party at Children's Book World!

Enter to win the book giveaway with the Rafflecopter below.

2 winners (one US and one outside of the US) will each receive a copy of The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog!

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  1. The label "defensive" is used here to demean a group of people, much like forcing them to live only in a specific neighborhood or "ghetto." I think that breaking apart books into separate categories helps people find where they are in a bookstore faster. If a bookstore had all of their books alphabetized by author it would make it much more difficult to find a book. (Assuming you are unaware of that author's alphabetical location and the corresponding shelf location). A bookstore with no categories would make it much more difficult to browse and find other books, especially ones that might be age appropriate and similar subjected.

  2. I am going to be flippant, because I'm tired and a little cranky, but someday I'm going to open a bookstore and you'll have to find your book by spine or cover color (depending on whether or not it's faced out). Employees will have to pass this test http://www.xrite.com/online-color-test-challenge to make sure they can shelve properly. Or is Orange just the ghetto between Red and Yellow? (This is a question I don't really want to know the answer to.)

    Seriously though, is it Art Deco or Art Nouveau? Is it punkrock, or funkrock? Is it chick-flick or action-adventure? I like all of these things and don't think labeling one demeans the other. My problem is with the people who have learned to assume "YA" = "not a real book". There are good books in every category for every age and for every taste. David may hate a book I love, and I'm ok with that. I think my hope was that Marion could trust readers to read his book no matter where it's shelved. Anyway, I have more to say but I'm going to wait until the anniversary post (because hey, it's been almost a year!) and also I just ran 2 miles and may die soon. I am not an athlete.

  3. According to GR, the closest we come to a book you (like) and I hate is Name of the Star. ;-)

  4. Alethea, this was the most wonderful review -- thank you so much! Both for this and for everything else! You have no idea how happy it makes me that you enjoyed my book! I can't wait to meet you and thank you in person one day soon -- maybe this weekend!

  5. Thanks so much, Dorothy! I hope you and your granddaughter enjoy it!