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Upside-Down Magic: 08/17/16
Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins is the tale of a new school for fifth grade magical misfits. It reminds me a bit of Ms. Jool's class in Wayside School series — except with magic. Or it's like Goddess Boot Camp by Tera Lynn Childs.
Nory ends up there when she fails the entrance exam to her father's school. She was supposed to turn into a black kitten. But her animals are always hybrids: bittern (beaver kitten) or skunkephant (skunk elephant).
The exploration of Nory's abilities and the abilities of her classmates is a way to learn about how magic works and the history of magical education. Magic is very structured, broken into very specific skill sets: fire making, levitating, transformation, and so forth. There's no room for mixing up skill sets, nor creativity.
If this book were a YA, I could see it set in a totalitarian world. I could see this class being used as the start of a resistance movement or as the first stop in an underground railroad.
But it's aimed at elementary school aged readers. So while there's a hint of a troubled world, it's too upbeat to be dystopian. There are two more books in the series: Sticks and Stones and Showing Off.