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The Magic Mystery by Mary Laine Dyksterhouse, illustrated by Shelby Gorman, 20 pp, RL 3

The Magic Mystery by Mary Laine Dyksterhouse with enchanting illustrations by Shelby Gorman is the perfect book for book lovers! Author Dyksterhouse is clearly a book lover herself, and manages to get that elusive, "A-ha!" moment of understanding in her story at just the right moment. Narrator Melinda Lou begins the story, "What a day! Today, I was flying on my magical . . . Wait. Let's start from the very beginning." The beginning finds nine-year-old book loving Melinda Lou and her six-year-old brother Micah living in an orphanage, her best friends Ruby and Melaghia having just been adopted. But, they have left a note behind for Melinda Lou and, after rescuing Micah from the mean clutches of Mrs. Lorkes, the head of the orphanage, she manages to read it.
Melinda Lou finds refuge in her favorite books, like The Spies of the World, The Cottage by the Stream, The Secret of the Scrolls and Mrs. W's School of Potions and Spells. Her favorite is The Kingdom of the Clouds where a magical fairy queen and a mysterious king rule a land made out of cotton candy clouds. There, they, "eat nothing but sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they never get sick!" When Melinda Lou dreams of escaping, the Kingdom of the Clouds is where she dreams of escaping to.
Ruby and Melaghia's note sends Melinda Lou and Micah on a midnight adventure filled with riddles (and a really great joke), a crop duster - which they fly, a talking watch and a lesson in potions. This all leads to a happy ending, not just for Melinda Lou and Micah, but for all the children of the Chapton Orphanage, that will have you cheering - and wishing you had your own path to Cloudlandia!

The Magic Mystery is a rare and special book for me. The author (and avid reader), Mary Laine Dyksterhouse, is just eight-years-old and in third grade! In May of 2017 her mother contacted me about creating a personalized book list to feed her voracious appetite for books. Mary Laine and her family live in a small community in Mississippi and the library and their bank account can't keep up with Mary Laine's love of books. I suggested she start her own book review blog so she could receive review copies for free. Mary Laine is now the kid's book reviewer for her local bookstore, TurnRow Book Co.! Writing under the pen name Emmie Enchanted, you can read Mary Laine's fantastic reviews here. and at her own website, Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them. Mary Laine has a marvelous voice and she captures the essence of the story in a few paragraphs, something that has taken me years to perfect! I especially love her review of Kate Milford's Greenglass House, which was a magnificent but complex book to read, let alone write about. You can compare hers to my review, found here

Wanting to contribute to her school's holiday fundraiser for the patients of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Mary Laine was inspired to write her first book, The Magic Mystery, with family friend and graphic designer Shelby Gorman illustrating. She even had a book signing event at TurnRow Book Co., where you can purchase her book in person and online HERE, that attracted the local news!

This year in August, my book review blog will be 10 years old. It is so meaningful to start this year with a review like this and to know that in a small way I was able to be part of a child's reading experience and writing life! Readers like Mary Laine and supportive parents like the Dyksterhouses are the reason I started reviewing kids' books and the reason I keep on reviewing kids' books. And, while my imagined audience has always been the parents and teachers working to meet the needs of children reading above their grade level, I am grateful to have a new perspective on children's books as the librarian at a school where less than 40% of third, fourth and fifth grade students are reading at grade level. The Magic Mystery is going straight on the bookshelf for them to read and be inspired by.

Source: Review Copy, Signed by the Author!


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