Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by J. M. Bergen

★★★★★   At twelve years old, young Californian Thomas Wildus ought to be spending his time at the beach with friends, or reading comics late into the night. But when he enters a mysterious bookshop seeking a book of magic—real magic, something his long-lost father once told him truly exists in the world, if you know where to look for it—the proprietor hands him a special tome called The Book of Sorrows. Thomas is given strict rules not to read it unless he is absolutely alone, and only to read a single chapter each day. Yet the more he reads it, the more difficult Thomas finds it to abide by these rules. Something strange is happening to the book—it seems to be coming alive. And soon, much sooner than he could imagine, Thomas’s world will be turned upside down as he is awakened to a centuries-old conflict between the forces of light and darkness.

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows is a charming, chummy tale that will instantly draw in any reader who has secretly (or not so secretly) wished for a little more wonder in their world. Parallels will of course be drawn to the Harry Potter series—and rightfully so—but this book also shares much in common with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Thomas comes from a family of scientists and freethinkers, and though magic is given plenty of opportunities to mesmerize readers of this great middle-grade novel, Bergen also makes sure his characters acknowledge that science can often explain many of the strange phenomena occurring in the world around us. Still, there is certainly that bit of mystery that can never be rightfully described by the laws of our universe—and for that, we’re eternally grateful. What fun would life be if we had all the answers?

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