Spoiler Free Review: Upside-Down Magic

“It’s never easy when your magic goes Wonky”

Authors: Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myarcle, and Emily Jenkins

Nory knew her magic powers would develop when she was ten. She knew her father would want her to attend the prestigious Sage Academy where he teaches. And she knew her father would be very disappointed if she blows her interview. . . which she just did.

Nory has the magical power to transform herself into any animal she can imagine. The problem is she has a vivid imagination. Sage Academy has no place for a kitten with dragon wings, so Nory is sent to public school. Not just normal public school, Having such a wonky power means Nory ends up in Magic Special Ed Class.

Nory is desperate to escape “upside down magic” class, and prove she belongs at Sage Academy like her brother and sister. Then Nory’s new teacher shows her that her how normal magic is limited, and how her wonky magic can be so much more powerful.

Will Nory make her father proud, or embrace her upside down magic?

I see what the authors are going for with the “excepting your uniqueness” angle and trying to de-stigmatize special education. Long term readers of this blog, say it with me “I worked in Special Education.” So I have some background here when I say: You mean well, but you’re wrong.

The name “Upside down magic” is borderline harm doing language to the students enrolled in the class. It implies that THEY are “upside down” There is not even an attempt at this school for an inclusive model of learning, which is also very concerning.

I don’t get the problem with the “inside the box” trick. It’s established very early on that the main problem Nory has is that when she turns into an animal, the animal mind takes over. Clearly the “inside the box” trick is supposed to be akin to the days when schools used to force left handed kids to use their right hand. but seeing as Nory does so much better transforming once she learned the trick, I don’t see how it’s bad. I know the whole point is that Nory needs to learn to embrace her “outside the box” magic (which is what the class should be called BTW) but clearly something about that technique helped her because she is able to focus just fine when she needs to. I don’t understand why it’s bad.

I understand this is a series so maybe it’s dealt with later on, but I wonder if Nory’s problems with her father contributes to her problems with magic. Like how in the real world high stress at a young age can contribute to things like stuttering problems.

This is a fine middle school book, and I do recommend it to that age group. They won’t be so harsh with their analysis as I am.

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