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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Magician's Apprentice, written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Peter Sis. Frances Foster, Farrar Straus Giroux, Douglas & McIntyre. 2012. $18.95 ages 12 and up

"He smiled, his gold tooth capturing the sun's rays, sending them back to their source. The master took the sword from the man and caressed it, moving his palm up the blade to the very tip. Then he turned the treasure in his hand, pivoting the blade earthward. A small door in the handle slid open to reveal an empty compartment."

This is a beautifully told, almost mystic story of a young boy named Baz who leaves his family home, as his brothers have done before him. He is apprenticed to a weaver, who is a mean and sadistic man that treats his young charges abominably. Each of the young boys who weave for him are ill-fed, badly treated and do not even have basic needs met. They are a sorry lot!

When the weaver sells him to Tadis for a sword, Baz has no idea how his life will change. The magician is a fine man, who encourages Baz to accompany him on a journey. He lets him know that he has a choice...he is not bound to his new master as he was to the weaver. Tadis quietly takes the young boy under his tutelage and helps him learn much about life in general. The story is told with lovely language, and a gentle feeling of simplicity. Peter Sis has created artwork that matches the tone with perfection. Together these artists offer a story that is memorable and uplifting, while also being a bit 'magical'.

A peaceful, happy family life in his home village does not satisfy Baz's urge to know more about the world. So, he is happy to move forward. His new life brings heartbreak, and some life-changing events for the young man. He faces cruelty for the first time and becomes quite resentful, a new and unflattering emotion.

The magician is a kind and philosophical mentor to Baz and helps him see the world in a new and different light:

"Baz had begun to listen without realizing it. It was not the kind of listening that happened when he forced himself, when he made an effort. It was a more passive form of being, in which the noises sounded different. The trees seemed to sigh or some times laugh, depending on the wind. Well, he reasoned, if the mountains had souls, then the trees must have them, too. There were grass snakes that slithered to the movements of the trees, and there were birds that sang ragged notes. Somewhere in back of all these noises was a quiet that came not from around him but from within him. It was a silence, which Baz had grown to know, to desire even. With it came an indescribable feeling of peace."

Tadis teaches Baz about illusions...the magic he practices to ensure they have food and lodging. Baz is quick to learn. While their journey together is often difficult, he realizes that there is much he does not know. As they travel and learn together, Baz becomes patient and kind with others, based on the experiences he has and the changes they make in the way he will live his life.

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