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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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

Also by Debi Gliori:

The Scariest Thing of All

Pure Dead Frozen

Pure Dead Trouble

Pure Dead Brilliant

Pure Dead Batty

Pure Dead Wicked

Stormy Weather



Pure Dead Magic
by Debi Gliori
Ages 9-12 208 pages Yearling August 2002 Paperback    

Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori is purely a fun, rollicking good book sure to please fans of Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, the Addams Family, and Mary Poppins. The action is set in the Highlands of Scotland, where the Stregia-Borgia clan live in a huge castle complete with turrets and a moat (infested with a crocodile named Tock who has developed a particular culinary fondness for the taste of nannies due to an unfortunate accident involving one who came looking for employment at the door of StregaSchloss).

The three charges of Mrs. Flora McLachlan, a witch who becomes the new nanny, are Titus, Pandora, and their little sister who goes by the name of Damp (that being the general state of her diapers).

Quite a few more characters further enliven the pages of Pure Dead Magic - the two parents, Signor and Signora Strega-Borgia, who’s taking courses to learn witchcraft, for starters. Signor Luciano Strega-Borgia is not at home for much of the book, and the children assume it’s because he and their mom had a fight and might be getting a divorce. They eventually learn he has been kidnapped by his half-brother, Don Lucifer di S’Embowli, a relative on the Mafia side of the family tree. There are Latch, the butler; Marie Bain, the French cook who always seems to screw up whatever recipe she attempts; and Strega-Nonna, the children’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother (cryogenically preserved in the family’s deep freezer). Beasts and mythical creatures add to the plot’s fun and development immensely, including Sab, a griffen; Ffop, a dragon; and Knot, a Yeti.

The plot revolves around two key elements in this first book of Gliori’s “Pure Dead” novels: the kidnapping and eventual rescue of Signor Luciano Strega-Borgia, and Damp’s being indavertently shrunk and sent out to destinations unknown via the World Wide Web. Two creatures play important roles in both of these plot lines: Pandora’s pet rat, Multitudina, and her brood of thirteen babies; and Tarantella, a lipstick-wearing spider with an attitude.

When Multitudina’s babies are lured to Titus’ computer by bacon rinds Damp has crawled over to the computer with and are accidentally sent by her to infect Don Lucifer’s computers like a virus, Don Lucifer has an excuse to tell his half-brother why he was kidnapped: to help find out who sent the virus and to get rid of it. He also has in mind getting Luciano to change his will so that, upon his death, Lucifer will receive the money their grandfather set aside for Titus when he reached the age of thirteen. Lucifer also plans to send some of his thugs to Strega-Schloss to do away with Titus and whomever else might stand in the way of his nefarious schemes.

Tarantella takes a prominent role in rescuing Damp. She is, after all, an expert on webs, so the navigation of the Worldwide Web is right up her alley. This book may make readers look at spiders in an entirely different light. It’s a rare novel that has a tarantula as an important character; or any other sort of arachnid, for that matter--but, Pure Dead Magic IS a rare novel sure to delight anyone who likes books about magic and mythical beasts. I am glad that this series has made it over to America from Scotland, and I can’t wait to check out the rest of the “Pure Dead” books.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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