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Judith Pratt
Siljeea Magic
Judith Pratt, author
Most people see nothing but trees and grass in the woodlands lining superhighways. But Andrea sees small people, who call themselves the Bokaaj. She is the 13-year-old hero of Siljeea Magic, a fantasy novel that pits affluent 21st century culture against a world of spells, wisdom, and power struggles. Erau, who is close to Andrea’s age and about four feet tall (with seven toes) teaches her to hunt, scramble up trees, and sense the approach of angry Bokaaj elders who wish her dead. Despite this, she must save the Bokaaj, and their shaman the Siljeea, from the bulldozers of development. But it’s hard to be a hero while going to school, caring for your younger brother, and trying not to worry your over-protective parents. Andrea is tossed into s series of adventures that wreck her grades, mess up her health, and almost tear her family apart.
In this adventurous coming-of-age novel, Pratt (The Dry Country) conjures the magic of little woodland people who teach an upper middle class tween girl about environmental care, diversity, and heroism. City kid Andrea Jernigan has always been able to see child-sized, human-like people the “color of the dried oak leaves” in the buffer zone of forest wedged between highways and houses, but when she tells people about this no one believes her. After moving out of her Boston-area city to a big new house, school, and suburban sprawl, Andrea laments the loss of old school friends. Frustrated with her helicopter mother, angry stepfather, and bratty five-year-old brother Andrea steals away at dawn to meet with Eraustaak, a Bokaaj (small people) teenager living in the woods behind her housing development. Eraustaak awakens her to the wonders of nature, edible berries and leaves, and animals. When developers threaten to raze the Bokaajs’ forest, Andrea gathers her courage to help them.

In light, flowing prose, Pratt evokes the inquisitiveness and innocence of young people of two cultures meeting and sharing their knowledge– until distrust and discrimination on both sides intervenes. The Bokaaj fear human encroachment, and tensions rise when one of them fires a gun at construction workers. Determined to help the starving Bokaaj relocate to safer grounds, Andrea seeks the wisdom of their Siljeea, the shaman women whose magic protects the forest enclave.

Never talking down to her readers, Pratt reveals the language and customs of a fully realized culture struggling to live on the fringes of American neighborhoods. Pratt explores how some people take action to right wrongs and help those in need while others just accept the sacrifices of “progress.” Readers of all ages will enjoy the uplifting story of a brave teenage girl making friends and coming into her own identity and purpose.

Takeaway: A suburban coming-of-age fantasy for all ages that explores an imaginative culture and environmental responsibility.

Great for fans of: Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, Lynne Reid Banks’s The Indian in the Cupboard.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A