Thursday, January 7, 2016

Pip Bartlett's guide to magical creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

I'm usually a little skeptical of authors stepping out from their own genre or audience, especially if they're going "down" on the audience scale. But this was really, really fun!

Most people think magical creatures are a nuisance. But not Pip. Pip loves to learn about them, especially because she can talk to them! But nobody believes in her special talent and after some rather....unfortunate troubles with snooty unicorns, she gets sent to stay with her aunt and annoying cousin for the summer. Pip hopes that she will be able to have some safe and fun interactions with magical creatures at her aunt's veterinary office but then the troubles infestation of Fuzzles! Fuzzles are cute and harmless, until they start bursting into flame. Can Pip save the day, make a friend, and keep the Fuzzles from being exterminated? Can you even exterminate them anyways?

Maggie Stiefvater did the illustrations for this fun and quirky book, primarily in the "encyclopedia entries" that Pip reads and corrects as she meets new creatures and learns new facts. I reviewed this from a galley, but the black and white illustrations remind me a little of Ursula Vernon's fun pictures and kids who like wacky creatures will definitely be drawn to them.

Things I loved about this book: Pip is a gender-neutral character. I didn't even register she was a girl until I was halfway through, since the emphasis is on the magical adventures and problems and not her friendships and feelings or lack thereof. Tomas, her new friend, is hyper-allergic and freaks out about stuff, but he's not like the anti-stereotype boy who's kind of wimpy. He's got actual reasons for being scared of stuff and Pip realizes that. There are lots of adventures, humor and excitement, but it's not a scary or overly dramatic magical adventure a la Harry Potter. Finally, at under 200 pages it's a really comfortable length.

Verdict: There is a small but vocal group of kids at an intermediate level who really like cozy magical stories like this. It's a great example of the genre and one that I highly recommend.

ISBN: 9780545709262; Published April 2015 by Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015; Purchased for the library

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