This first book in the Magic Repair Shop series opens the story of 12 year old Maggie, who is in disgrace for supposedly having played a prank on a schoolmate involving a container of cockroaches and the end of the school year party. The difficulty is that no one would believe Maggie if she explained the truth of the event, for since she was a young child, Maggie has had the power to make wishes that come true. While this might at first seem like a child’s greatest fantasy, this ability has proved to be as much a curse as a blessing, for the wishes usually do not come true in the way she has intended, and Maggie has learned to be extremely careful never to say the word “wish,” as chaos inevitably followed. Now, as a result of a magical wish that got away from her, she finds herself expelled from school and exiled to a grandmother she hardly knows, while her parents are in South American doing entomological research.
Things take a turn for the better when Maggie gets accepted into a school for the gifted and talented, and gets a job in a magic repair shop, fixing magic that has gone awry and doing tasks such as cleaning magic cauldrons, dewarting frogs, and stopping rabbits that continue to magically multiply. Along the way she acquires a talking rabbit of her own named Hasenpfeffer, and develops strong friendships with nonmagical, but highly intelligent Raphael, and Mr. McGuire, the owner of the shop. She also begins to learn some interesting things about her own family history, as it turns out her grandfather was also a magician, and had once worked in the shop with Mr. McGuire. Maggie begins to realize that there is much more to the story of her family than she had realized.
Things are going well, although the shop is being stressed by an unusual increase in the numbers of difficult magical breakdowns. Then Maggie connects the arrival of a powerful and highly unpleasant magician named Milo the Magnificent with the increase in magical mishaps, and realizes that Milo must be stopped before he can create real chaos. With the help of her new friends, she thwarts the designs of the evil magician, but knows at the end that she has acquired a powerful magical enemy.
This is a fun, engaging, and largely undemanding book, which moves quickly through a series of adventures and sweeps the reader along. Maggie is spirited and likable, with good problem solving skills, and an upbeat attitude towards her unconventional life. She is willing to put herself at risk for others, and faces the dangers of her magical work with courage and aplomb. While her magical mishaps have created difficulties, she learns from her mistakes, and comes to realize that the misuse of magical powers has consequences, and that with magic comes responsibility. The supporting cast of characters, the nervous and dithery rabbit Hasenpfeffer, the nonmagical but likeable Raphael, the eccentric students from Maggie’s class at school, and even the grandly evil Milo, are well presented and offer interesting vignettes that help fill out Maggie’s world. The books ends with many threads left to follow, and many hints dropped of revelations to come, leaving the readers looking forward to the next books in the series. Offer this to young readers who are developing an interest in fantasy, but are not yet ready for the more challenging offerings of Harry Potter or Fablehaven.
Recommended by Linda Lucke, Learning Center Director, Illinois, USA