Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrows, 278 pp, RL: 4

You probably know Annie Barrows for her fantastic ivy + bean series, now 10 books strong (you can read my review here) but my first introduction to Annie Barrows was when I reviewed her book The Magic Half in 2010. Published in 2007, this story captured my imagination and has stayed with me. I was THRILLED when I learned that Barrows was working on a sequel and am happy to say that it's every bit as good as its predecessor! When we first met Miri, she was a singleton in a family of older twin brothers and younger twin sisters. A move to a new (old) house gave here the gift of her very own room where she finds the lens from a pair of eyeglasses taped to the way. When she holds it up to her eye to peer through it, Miri finds herself in the exact same house, but the year is 1935. Once there, Miri meets Molly, an orphan being raised by her sour, cruel aunt and tormented by her brutal cousin Horst. With the help of Grandma May, the girls escape danger and find their way back to Miri's present where Molly finds that she is in fact Miri's twin.

Near the start of Magic in the Mix, the girls, now twelve and in middle school, find themselves pondering the dual realities that they both carry with them and magic that brought them together. Molly shares her worry that she is not supposed to be Miri's twin, living in the future, and that the magic might take her away. Miri reminder her that Grandma May said that, "magic is just a way of setting things right," and that magic doesn't waste itself. And, soon enough, the girls find themselves, and their new kitten Cookie, traveling back through time. This time, it's 1918 and Molly gets to see Maudie, the mother she never met who died in childbirth in 1924, and her father. They also hear the awful, younger, Aunt Flo going on about her grandfather's medals and personal commendations from General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War. But before they can find out why they are there, they are sent back to the present. Rattled by the experience, Molly begins to wonder if she was sent back in time to save her mother from dying in childbirth somehow. Miri realizes that this line of thinking also means that Molly might not end up being her sister in the present - and she might end up not even being born. And, when Miri catches Molly trying to go back in time and set things right, she stumbles with her into the past again, but this time the girls end up in the 1800s during the height of the Civil War where they find themselves in a dangerous spot before being sent forward in time.

In the present, renegade older brothers Robbie and Ray are participating in Civil War reenactmens for extra credit at school. When they try to sneak out of the house to make it to a battle, they mistakenly go through a pocket in time, with Miri and Molly close behind, determined to save them. What follows is a suspenseful race back and forth through time as the girls work to piece together the clues before them and find a way to save their brothers from certain death. As with The Magic Half, Barrows's writing is thoughtful and fast paced, her characters rich with detail. Miri and Molly are well formed individuals with different emotions and beliefs who work together to keep their family - past and present - safe and whole. Although Barrows is working with elements that feel familiar, both The Magic Half and  Magic in the Mix feel fresh and new and very exciting. Barrows's writes an excellent Author's Note that gives some insight into the Civil War and the sometimes inhuman brutalities that occurred and happen off the page in Magic in the Mix. Best of all, Barrows ends Magic in the Mix with the possibility that there will be more time travel ahead for Miri and Molly and the rest of the Gill family!

Source: Review Copy

Don't miss Annie Barrows's extremely insightful and funny Celebrity Guest Review of Laura Ingalls Wilder's By the Shores of Silver Lake

ivy + bean 1 - 10

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