Sunday, September 06, 2020

Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle

Evenson, J.M. Dalya and the Magic Ink Bottle
September 1st 2020 by Capstone Editions
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Dalya's parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother, seeing her father rarely. She isn't excited to spend the summer with her father in his native Istanbul, especially when she sees how decrepit the house is where they will be living in order to help Zehra Hala sell it. The stairs and floors upstairs are so bad that Dalya is warned not to go up there, lest she fall through! When she follows a cat upstairs, she finds a mysterious ink bottle that seems to be set to grant wishes. When she wishes to go home, she finds herself turned into a cat... in 1907! She meets a girl living in the house, Mina, who is being mistreated by her aunt Sibel. Knowing that she needs to find the creator of the ink bottle, Mustafa the Great, or remain stuck back in time in the body of a cat, she enlists Mina's help. Mina disguises herself as a boy, and the two take off on an adventure. At the Cat Bazaar, they meet a helpful rat, Boz, but also run afoul of a very nasty group of squirrels. They try to locate Mustafa, talking to many creatures and finding out more about the magic and Mina's father. Even if they locate the magician, will Dalya be able to return to the present and put things right with her father?
Strengths: Like Abu-Jaber's Silverworld, this had a nice mix of magic, cultural connections, and family mysteries. I really enjoyed the travels around Istanbul; this has been compared to The Wizard of Oz, and I can see that, especially when the group finally finds Mustafa. The family secrets are good, and the fraught relationship between Dalya and her father is one that will speak to many young readers. I can see this being popular with Hunter's Warriors fans; there are some of my students who would very much enjoy being turned into a cat.
Weaknesses: This was slightly formulaic. There are a lot of fantasy novels that involve having to endure many adventures in order to complete a quest.
What I really think: I'm not sure about this one. Given the right group of students, it could be popular, but it's not exactly the kind of fantasy my students generally request. This is a great magical romp that I would definitely buy this for an elementary school, but it seems a little young for my middle school students, who want fantasies with more murders, more control, and stronger magic.
Ms. Yingling

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