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So You Want to Be a Wizard    by Diane Duane order for
So You Want to Be a Wizard
by Diane Duane
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt Brace, 2001 (1983)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nita is, as usual, running from a gang of bullies, when she finds refuge in the children's library and a book tugs her finger - 'So You Want to Be a Wizard' of course. She clearly has an aptitude as it tells her that 'their love for and fluency with words is what makes wizards a force to be reckoned with. Their ability to convince a piece of the world - a tree, say, or a stone - that it's not what it thinks it is, that it's something else, is the very heart of wizardry.'

The book accompanies Nita home and she starts reading. Determined to make a spell that will recover her beloved space pen from her chief tormentor, Nita meets fellow novice wizard Kit. She also discovers an affinity with trees and that she can hold conversations with them. Kit, on the other hand is good with mechanical creations. They work a spell, which goes awry and brings them a new friend and helper, a white hole they call Fred. Fred has the hiccups and emits a long series of items from a portable tv to a 'powder blue Mercedes-Benz'.

They fix that problem with assistance from more senior wizards, but learn that a much more serious problem needs attention - the Book of Night with Moon is missing. It describes everything in the universe and must be read on a regular basis to keep things as they are. A series of adventures follow for Nita, Kit and Fred, starting at Grand Central Station and ending in a dark, alternate New York. The highlight, for me, was an attack by a wolf pack of yellow cabs, in which a brave Lotus came to their rescue.

They need to get past the Eldest (a large dragon with Alzheimer's) to rescue the bright Book, and after him there is a greater Enemy and a sacrifice. Nita learns that being a wizard is about 'Keeping terrible things from happening, even when it hurts.' So You Want to Be a Wizard is a good tale, somewhat over-complicated in the middle, but with feisty characters and fresh ideas - and it's first of the Young Wizards series of five volumes, so there's lots more to enjoy.

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