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Gr 4-6-Audrey's father has a heart ailment, forcing her mother to work full-time at a job she doesn't like in order to support the family. To escape from her worries, Audrey writes stories, and so when a mysterious woman in a cave gives her an antique-looking bronze pen ("Use it wisely and to good purpose"), she immediately sets to work. After writing a passage about a girl who can speak with animals, she finds that she can suddenly understand her dog, Beowulf, and her pesky cockatiel, Sputnik. After a few more similar experiences with the pen, Audrey realizes that it must be magical. Once she figures out some of its rules and limitations, she is able to use it to very good purpose indeed. Readers looking for a full-fledged fantasy along the lines of Edward Eager's Half Magic (Harcourt, 1997) will be disappointed; the magical events are tantalizing but few, and although some hints are dropped, the mystery of the old woman remains unsolved. Audrey is an appealing kid and her thoughts and actions are interesting and believable, but in the end readers may feel that this fantasy does not deliver on its magical promise.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Set (barely noticeably) in 1973, this relatively straightforward fantasy showcases the beloved author's gift for characterization but not, sadly, her finest example of blending magic and realism. With a father confined to his bed with heart disease and an overworked mother, 12-year-old Audrey Abbott takes solace in writing. It's a testament to Snyder's (The Egypt Game; The Treasures of Weatherby) narrative skills that readers will be intrigued rather than doubtful when a large white duck appears, "almost as if [Audrey] had been expecting it," and guides her to a cave, where she converses with a spooky presence manifested only by its voice. On a subsequent visit, Audrey receives a bronze pen, with instructions to "use it wisely and to good purpose." The rest of the plot revolves around Audrey's gradual realization that the pen brings what it writes into being. The resolution leaves several loose ends (Just who or what is in the cave? Where does the bronze pen come from?), and the magic only occasionally feels fully integrated with the plight of Audrey's family. Ages 8-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.