Allison's Book Bag

QUICK TAKE: Do-It-Yourself Magic by Ruth Chew

Posted on: February 29, 2012

Despite some faults, Do-It-Yourself Magic by Ruth Chew is a quick read about what two kids discover in a Build-Anything Kit that is marked down in price. If Do-It-Yourself Magic is representative of what Ruth Chew wrote, you should check out her books for the reluctant reader in your life.

The story starts out in a seemingly bland way. Rachel and Scott visit a discount store. Scott looks for a racing car model. The one he finds is too expensive, but his sister helps him find an affordable kit. If Ruth Chew were writing today, an editor would probably ask her to liven up the pace. For example, we don’t really need to know that the kids eat muffins after school for snacks, or that Rachel likes to do her homework on Friday afternoons, or what clothes they changed into before playtime. Moreover, some events are too convenient. When Rachel and Scott arrive at home, they discover that their parents are going out on a date. On the other, what better circumstances for discovering just what a Build-Anything Kit can do?

Some things are also never explained, but I’m not sure that’s a problem. Yes, I’d like to know why Rachel and Scott are so anxious to buy a damaged kit that can’t be returned. Since when though should magic need a reason? Rachel feels drawn to the box and, perhaps, that’s explanation enough. After all, do we really need to how Dorothy ends up being blown by a tornado to a magical land?

To get on with story, after Rachel and Scott sort through the contents of the box, they discover a plastic hammer that they initially hadn’t. And then it disappears! And then it reappears! On the handle is the word: SIZER. Soon they discover that the hammer changes the size of things. This gives Rachel the ability to shrink Scott to fit the stock race car, but also to increase the size of the car so that he can ride it outside. This leads to a few dangerous adventures, including one with a burglar. Soon all three of them are on an adventure inside a castle, where its citizens suspect Rachel of being a witch.

Despite its languid start, Do-It-Yourself Magic feels perfect for reluctant readers. High action is combined with an easy vocabulary. Moreover, there is a strong sense of moral values.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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