Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay


by Hilary McKay
Middle Grade Fantasy
ages 8 to 12

From acclaimed author and Costa winner Hilary McKay comes The Time of Green Magic: a beautiful, spell-binding novel about a new families, a magical old house and a mysterious cat . . .

When Tom and Polly marry, blending their single parent families together, their children find it hard to relinquish their old lives. Max realizes his birth dad will never come home now, while Abi suddenly finds herself a middle child, expected to share far too much – especially with grubby little Louis. The family start over together, stretching their finances to the limit and renting an eerie, ivy-covered house, big enough for all of them.

But when the children are alone there, strange things start to happen. Worried, Louis summons comfort from outdoors, and a startling guest arrives – is it a cat, or an owl, or something else? Abi reads alone, tumbling deep into books. Max loses his best friend and falls in love.

Meanwhile, Louis' secret visitor is becoming much too real. And when Max and Abi too start to see the great spotted cat-thing that arrives in the night, it becomes a problem the three of them must find a way to solve – together. But where has the creature come from, and how will he get back?



With lots of care, warmth and heart, this book dives into the problems of a family learning to become one.

This book was not what I expected. After reading the blurb and seeing the cute cover, I was ready for a magical world to unfold in perhaps a gentle way with characters to snuggle up to. This story instead heads more in a contemporary direction with magic as a yummy side dish. 

The tale swirls around a patchwork family with three kids trying to find how they fit in together after their parents have married. Abi, the single daughter of the father, isn't sure how to link with her new step-brothers, the two sons of her nurse-step-mother, and finds comfort in books. When they move into an old, ivy covered house, strange things happen and the magic begins. 

While emotions and thoughts run deep, the story centers more on Abi and the others coming to grips with their new situations and each other than any real fantastical elements. So, I'd shove this one on the magical realism side more than true fantasy. (which was a big bend to what I expected and disappointing). Still, there is magic. It's just not extremely strong, not well-defined, and doesn't really do much until the last part of the book. 

The characters are well done and fit their age groups nicely. The exchanges, decisions and dialogue are realistic and come across very well. There are moments to smile and sigh. And there are even some creepy situations, which do raise the tension and make one wonder what will happen next. For the most part, though, there was a slower pacing through much of the book. Near the end, though, it suddenly jumps into high gear at the end of the book. For action fans like me, it was a bit...well, slow. For those who love inner-workings and drama and feelings, this is well woven and touches upon things such as first love as well.

Summed up, this is a lovely read for anyone who wants to delve into the contemporary dynamics of a family trying to weave together and characters who are finding their way. To add to the fun, there is a dusting of magic,  a short gasp of creepiness, and an exciting end.

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