HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Nov. 2021. 240p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780062955807.
Gr 5-8–In a magical world, the balance of the environment is held together by a symbiotic relationship between sea dragons and humans. Sophie, a young witch, wants to hone her family’s ancient magic and attend the Royal Magic Academy. She is sent to be taught by her great-aunt Lan and cousin Sage before she can audition to attend. However, Sophie’s impatience rubs Auntie the wrong way. Instead of teaching magic, she makes Sophie perform chores around the farm. Tensions boil over between the two, and, desperate to prove her ability, Sophie attempts a powerful spell and disrupts the balance between wind and water. Narrowly escaping drowning, she accidentally entangles her magic with that of Lir, a dragon who has transformed into a human and lost his memory. Suddenly, she can perform spells and, with his assistance, might have a shot at passing her audition. But as a raging storm grows worse, she realizes that using his magic for her benefit and preventing him from regaining his memories could cause the Earth to suffer permanent imbalance. Xu’s artwork is steeped in Chinese mythology by way of a New England setting. The cool palette brings the sea to life as a character in its own right, and Xu’s soft drawing favors her simplified yet expressive characters. Themes of self-acceptance poke through toward the end of the story. Sophie and her family are Chinese American.
VERDICT Sophie’s struggles and growth will resonate with younger readers, especially those who love the “Tea Dragon Society” and the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Relatable and heartwarming.

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