Please welcome back Elliott Kurta with his evaluation of an 8-book series by Sarah Mlynoski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins.
The Upside-Down Magic series spreads a message of positivity and acceptance by using magic as an analogy for individuality. Perfect for upper elementary and middle-school students, these novels capture a fifth-grade class as they make friends, confront bullies, and define themselves in today’s world. Each book features the protagonist, Nory, and one of her friends. Read ahead for a review of the first four books, and be sure to come back later for a review of the remaining four!
Upside-Down Magic (Book 1)
Upside-Down Magic follows Eleanor Boxwood Horace, aka Nory, as she tries to control her magic. Nory is a Fluxer, one of five types of magical abilities, which means she can turn into different animals. However, unlike most fluxers, Nory doesn’t turn into one animal at a time. Her kitten, which is the first form young Fluxers learn, often ends up being half-beaver, half-goat, or on one memorable occasion, half-dragon. Nory’s father has been waiting for Nory’s chance to test into Sage Academy, where he happens to be the headmaster. So, when Nory flunks the entrance exam for Sage Academy, her world crumbles around her. Her father isn’t speaking to her, and her brother and sister don’t want to be seen with her.
In a whirl, Nory is sent to live with an aunt and finds out she’s going to a different school, one that offers a special program for kids who are “wonky” like her. As Nory readjusts to her new life, she realizes that the Upside-Down magic, or UDM program, isn’t that bad. Ms. Starr, her teacher, doesn’t mind Nory’s mixed-up transformations, and neither do her classmates. Still, Nory feels ashamed of her magic. When she tries to test out of her UDM class along with a classmate, Nory thinks she has a shot at being “normal”. However, a prank that ends with one of her classmates in danger convinces Nory that wonky doesn’t mean worse and normal doesn’t mean better.
Sticks and Stones (Book 2)
Nory is happy at the Dunwiddle Magic School, and she loves her new friends. Unfortunately, not all of her classmates feel the same way. Lacy Clench has had it out for the Upside-Down Magic class since one of their students shrank her to the size of a doll for a few hours. And now, she’s started a petition to end the Upside-Down magic program! Worse, objects all over the school have been turning to stone, and fingers are being pointed at the UDM class. The most likely culprit, Bax, has Upside-Down magic that makes him flux into a boulder when he’s mad or stressed. But Bax has his own things to worry about, and he’s already tired of all the accusations.
While the suspicion builds, Nory decides to join the Kittenball team, where her advanced fluxing means she might have a chance to be good at something. Her classmates have agreed to attend her first-ever Kittenball game. However, Nory’s friends are anxious about keeping their magic under control in front of a large, noisy stadium. With Lacy’s petition gaining interest, a mysterious plague of objects turned to stone, and the incoming Kittenball match, the UDM class needs to shape up, and fast!
Showing Off (Book 3)
The Dunwiddle Show Off is here, and Nory is excited to perform with her classmates! The Show Off is a school-wide talent show, and the other fifth-grade classes have already picked out their acts. None of the UDM kids can agree on a performance, and they’re considering opting out.
Nory has other plans. Her father has decided to visit for the first time and chose the weekend of the Show Off. Nory sees the trip as the perfect opportunity to convince her father that she can come back home and go to a normal school. Unfortunately, one of Nory’s classmates doesn’t share her enthusiasm. Pepper, whose upside-down magic makes every animal nearby deathly afraid of her, is worried that performing will just cause trouble. Ms. Starr, the UDM teacher, has been teaching Pepper how to pause her magic. Still, Pepper isn’t sure that she can hold her magic off while her friend, Nory, fluxes into a flamingo for the musical performance. Will Pepper be able to control her powers, or will she ruin Nory’s chance at impressing her father?
Dragon Overnight (Book 4)
Nory is ecstatic to take a field trip to Dragon Haven, a dragon rehabilitation center. She’ll get three days off of school, and those three days will be spent petting dragons and eating smores with her friends! But even before Nory and her friends get to Dragon Haven, things go awry. Andres, whose upside-down magic makes him float upwards permanently, is almost left behind. Once Nory and the rest of the class arrive safely at Dragon Haven, they discover something that might ruin their field trip: another school will be visiting at the same time as them. The Sage Academy, where Nory’s father is the headmaster, will be next to the UDM class at every turn. While Nory is thrown off-kilter by her father, she’s still determined to enjoy the dragons. Soon, Andres’ desire to impress the kids from Sage Academy ends up putting him in danger, while Nory’s obsession with dragons ends up endangering a young hatchling.
You can find some classroom activities here. Recommended by the publisher (Scholastic Kids) for ages 8-12.
Great review of this series, which I am not familiar with. I'm amazed with your reviewing skills. Always keeping my 8-year-old great grandson in mind when I read reviews -- especially your reviews. This series sounds very entertaining! Thanks for the recommendations!
Thanks, Patricia. I'm sure Elliott will appreciate your comment!
I am familiar with the series and Elliott's critique of the first four books puts this high on my list to hopefully read this year. They look like a manageable length compared to the 300-400 pagers I've been reading lately. Another great review and I'm looking forward to Elliott's thoughts on the rest of the series.
Thanks, Greg. Your comments mean a lot to both him and me!
Excellent review. These books sound perfect for the younger fantasy fans. I look forward to reading about the rest. Thanks for the post.
They sound a fun series, I love the idea of all the wonky magic!! Thanks for the review!
Great reviews! Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t heard of these books yet, so I appreciate the reviews!!
Thanks, Marci. Elliott found them--I hadn't heard of them either.
I'm glad I was able to share these books with everyone. Thank you for your comments, and I hope that all of you are able to enjoy this series just as much as I did.
It's been fun having you as my extra reviewer, Elliott!
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