Zen Ties. By Jon J. Muth. Scholastic. $17.99.
Ibby’s Magic Weekend. By Heather Dyer. Chicken House/Scholastic. $16.99.
There is magic in both these books, but magic of very different kinds – the one quiet and gentle, the other surprising and rambunctious.
Zen Ties, as you can guess from the title, is the quiet book, as were Jon J. Muth’s previous Zen Shorts and The Three Questions, the latter based on a Tolstoy short story. This time the story is Muth’s own, based in part – as he explains at the end – on his family experiences, and on a camping retreat by the end of which the students had learned a valuable lesson. The story here is simple: a panda named
Ibby’s Magic Weekend has its charms, too, but they are more of the madcap variety. Heather Dyer, whose specialty is gentle absurdity (as in The Girl with the Broken Wing and The Fish in Room 11), here concocts a story of a girl (that would be Ibby) who does not believe in magic at all – she knows everything is just tricks, done with smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand. Then Ibby spends the weekend with Francis and Alex, her troublemaking cousins, and things suddenly get rather more magical than Ibby ever thought possible. There’s the time she walks into Francis’ room and finds Alex floating near the ceiling. And the time Alex turns up on the church steeple and has to be rescued by a helicopter. The time Francis becomes invisible. And much more. What causes all these happenings is a box called “Magic for Beginners” that lists seven tricks but warns that they “are undertaken at the magician’s own risk.” The box belonged to Uncle Godfrey, who simply disappeared – Ibby’s mother never told her how, and it takes a while for Ibby to get up the courage to ask Aunt Carole. This leads to – well, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that Uncle Godfrey’s disappearance is solved, Ibby becomes not only a believer in magic but also a practitioner of it, and by the end there is a hint of even more marvels to come (not necessarily in a sequel – but readers will be hoping for one).