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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Pure Dead Brilliant* by Debi Gliori - young readers book review

Also by Debi Gliori:

The Scariest Thing of All

Pure Dead Frozen

Pure Dead Trouble

Pure Dead Magic

Pure Dead Batty

Pure Dead Wicked

Stormy Weather



Pure Dead Brilliant
by Debi Gliori
Ages 9-12 288 pages Yearling August 2005 Paperback    

What do time travel, a witch who isn’t what she appears to be, a baby magus, and a bouncing baby dragon have in common? Plenty - they’re all a part of the bewitching fun of Pure Dead Brilliant, Debi Gliori’s third (and to me, best) installment in the Pure Dead series. Don’t be worried about the words “Pure Dead” in the title, parents; the use of the phrase along with as “Magic” (the first book), “Wicked” (the second), and “Brilliant” (the third), in Scotland means “very fine indeed, verging on the excellent.” That’s not to say that magic isn’t a major part of the series; it is, but in a humorous way. If your child loves Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, and Lemony Snicket, he or she is sure to love the Pure Dead books.

The Strega-Borgia clan’s two older children, twelve-year-old Titus and ten-year-old Pandora, are engaged in a bit of sibling rivalry at the start of Pure Dead Brilliant. Titus is set to inherit millions of lire from his grandfather, who himself earned it through various Mafia activities - though Titus doesn’t know yet that the origins of his inheritance. When he does learn how his grandfather got the money and how his own life might turn out (dangerously overweight, money grubbing, and potentially soulless), he eventually realizes that the saying is true: money can’t buy happiness. But at this point in Pure Dead Brilliant, he is deriving too much pleasure from rubbing his soon-to-be wealth in his sister’s face to worry about any future consequences of his behavior. Pandora, in turn, is jealous and wonders why the family fortune can only pass to the first-born males of the family, though she tries to act indifferent when faced with Titus’s insufferable smugness.

The subject of the inheritance is crucial to the plot of Pure Dead Brilliant. With the vast fortune also comes a terrible price: the loss of one’s soul. Along with Signora Bicci Strega-Borgia’s fellow student witches visiting the grounds of StregaSchloss, the ancestral Strega-Borgia mansion, is a demon in disguise bent on keeping the family tradition alive for another generation. Despite the serious-sounding subject matter, Debi Gliori manages to instill much of the famous Addams Family-style humor that made the first two books in the series a joy to read.

Can even Nanny Flora McLachlan and her Alarming Clock and the family’s menagerie of mythical beasties help break the chain? Or is Titus doomed to an unhappy life, an early demise, and an even worse afterlife? Pure Dead Brilliant blends flashbacks of the Strega-Borgia’s past with their present and potential futures, Debi Gliori demonstrating her continuing growth as a first-class author. Pandora has her biggest role to play yet, and Damp? She is starting to walk, talk, and get into more mischief than ever. Unfortunately for the Strega-Borgias, she is also attracting the demon’s unwanted attention.

Pure Dead Brilliant contains all the elements made Pure Dead Magic and Pure Dead Wicked great children’s literature. The subject matter is a bit more serious and grown-up, but it’s handled by the author masterfully and never gets too graphic. Humor is still a mainstay, and the antics of the non-human characters like Knot, the yeti; Sab, the griffin; and Ffup, the dragon (and new mom) help keep the overall tone from getting too dark. Also, the secret of just who is the father of Nestor, Ffup’s baby, is revealed, and it’s - no, sorry, you’ll have to buy the book for that tidbit of knowledge. If you’re already a fan of the Pure Dead series, you’ll definitely want to run out and get this book . If you haven’t yet read the previous two books and this is your first knowledge of the fabulous Strega-Borgias and the fantastic writing of Debi Gliori, the good news is you can still enjoy Pure Dead Brilliant. Once you’ve read it, though, you will be a fan, and you’ll want to go back and pick up the first two books.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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