Connor Dell, his twin sister Lexa and her best friend Melanie Stephens are great friends and they all happen to be Magi. Their lives have not been the same since they all Kindled at the same time. They are on the annual seventh grade science trip to Alabama, hoping for a normal and fun time. The Darkhands have a different idea though. Both Lexa and Melanie are asleep, a bi-product of the long bus ride they had to go on to get to the science trip. But Connor and his roommate, Pilaf, are both wide awake due to the naps they took on the bus ride. Trying to entertain Pilaf and mask the fact that there are shadow monsters in their room, Connor starts to make hand shadows with his hand and a flashlight. But when he makes a wolf hand shadow it actually comes to life and starts chasing him. Connor knows that he's running for his life, and that he must run faster than he ever has in his life. Running that fast is exhilarating, and pretty soon he's blasted through the front doors of the dorm and accidentally blown up the school bus the kids all arrived in that afternoon. Luckily he's saved just in time by a member of the Twilight Phalanx. But just why was the shadow monster after Connor in the first place? And why could Pilaf see the monster? Things just keep getting weirder and weirder for the friends, not to mention more and more dangerous with every passing day. They must complete their Magi training and quickly before someone gets seriously hurt!
I LOVE this series. It's the perfect series for kids in the Middle Grades, there's action, adventure, magic and even a touch of love. The characters in these books are so well written, they feel as though they could be your best friends, I love the way that they are individuals and that they face natural consequences for the way that they act and treat others. I liked the way that Connor was so conflicted in this book, in a way he feels guilty for things that have happened to him, but in the end he's able to learn that the things that happened to him were not his fault and that they didn't make him a bad person, the only way that he will be a bad person is if he chooses to be. I know that my 12 year-old daughter and I are both looking forward to the next installment in this series! Can't wait!
I was sent an e-copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Buy The Kindling or Penumbras: Braden Bell / Amazon / Barnes and Noble
About the author: Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog.
Find out more about Braden Bell:
Facebook/ Blog/ Penumbras Website
Here's a short interview with author Braden Bell to help you get to know him a little better!
Q: Tell us about Penumbras.
A: Penumbras is the second volume in The Middle School Magic series. The first installment, The Kindling came out last summer. I am currently working on the third volume, which will hopefully come out next summer.
Q: “Penumbras” is a somewhat unusual title. Can you explain it?
A: A penumbra is a vague, shadowy, area, neither fully light nor dark. The Kindling, the first book in the series was about the sparking of new and exciting powers. This particular book follows the characters as they confront the complex consequences of those initial events and confront the shadowy places in their own hearts.
Q: How did you get the idea for this series?
A: One night during a sky-splitting spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people’s yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing triggered the idea for the book.
Q: What is your background?
A: I am a middle school choir and theatre director at a small private school. I’m the father of five children and the husband of one wonderful wife.
Q: Speaking of that background, is it a coincidence that a middle school theatre and choir teacher has such a prominent part in the book? How about the students and other teachers in the book? Are they based on anyone specific?
A: Well, writers write what they know! Dr. Timberi is admittedly similar to me in some ways. However, that’s not because he’s modeled on me. Rather, it’s because he is someone I would like to be. As far as the other characters, in the very beginning, I did sort of model their voices on some specific people—but that changed within a few pages of the first draft and they quickly become their own unique characters.
Q: Beyond the characters, are there any other events based on real life experiences?
A: There is a sad scene towards the end between Dr. Timberi and one of his students. While it is not an exact replication, being a theatre director means I have dealt with disappointed and/or angry students (and parents!) for many years. I tend to have a pretty thick skin. However, there are occasional times when this gets to me. This scene was actually inspired by a particularly difficult confrontation with a student of whom I was quite fond. I wrote the scene as a way of working through the incident—and ended up keeping it. The only other thing that might be based in reality is the degree to which teachers truly do care about their students. I don’t think the students often realize just how much teachers and other adult figures care about them and what they would do to protect and help them.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do, besides reading or writing?
A: My wife and I love to watch old movies, or adaptations of literary classics. Nearly anything by the BBC! I also love working in my yard.
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Labels: Braden Bell, middle grade book