Any Which Wall - Laurel Snyder

You might think that magic would be too extraordinary to miss. You might be saying, "Oh, trust me, if I stumbled onto magic, I'd know it!" But that's not necessarily true. Because there are many kinds of magic in the world, and not all of it starts with a sound track of thunderous music to alert unsuspecting explorers to fabulous adventures ahead.

When I first read about Any Which Wall, it mentioned that Laurel Snyder really took a page from Edward Eager's magical stories (Half Magic and Magic by the Lake, for instance). And Eager's own books reference Edith Nesbit. So this book came from a good lineage, anyway, and I'm pleased to say that it does its predecessors proud.

Henry and Emma and Susan and Roy are two sets of siblings, best friends, next-door neighbors, who live in the small town of Quiet Falls, Iowa. It is (as is often the case for kids having adventures in books) summer vacation, and the four kids are kind of bored. While biking through a cornfield outside of town, they discover a strange stone wall with a keyhole (and its matching key). What they eventually discover is that the wall can transform into any other wall, bringing the kids along with them. So they can visit, for example, Merlin's castle, or take a trip to New York City, or visit a frontier town in America's past.

What's fun is that the kids in Any Which Wall have read books like Magic by the Lake, and they know that there must be some sort of rules. Once they discover the magic, part of the fun is that they think about themselves as being in a story, and that leads to various assumptions, some confirmed and some overturned. Snyder strikes a great balance: using the traditions and tropes of older magical adventures, but also subverting them with a nod and a wink. (For instance, after one particular trip, there's a side note to the reader that sometimes nothing particularly dangerous happens, and that's okay, but most books don't include them because "Most writers are show-offs and they like lots of drama. Even me.")

One other thing that I liked is that the kids here read books, and there's definitely a bias towards being your own individual and not just growing up and being "normal." Susan, the oldest kid, is struggling with her own sense of identity, wanting to be popular and cool but still being excited about magic and playing with her kid brother and younger friends. In a way, she's making a similar choice that the Susan in the Narnia series faced: that Susan abandons Narnia in favor of lipstick and boys, but this Susan is just on the cusp on that decision, and we get to see the thought that goes into her choices.

I read this one to Ridley and she really enjoyed it; she's at the age now where she knows the difference between reality and make-believe, but can still be halfway convinced that maybe there's still magic out there, waiting to be found. Again, I'm sure there were parts that she didn't quite understand, but the modern day setting (and even the small-town environment) were all a little more familiar to her than Eager's stories which take place 80 years ago.

Note: Here's my review on GeekDad.

Fed to jonathan's brain | November 07, 2009 | Comments (0)


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