Reviewed: February 9, 2006
By: a trilogy by Jane Yolen
Publisher: Magic Carpet Books - Harcourt, Inc.
Each book costs, $7.95
Given the fantasy worldís fondness
for trilogies, itís no wonder that Jane Yolenís latest work for middle readers
has been issued in three slender volumes. Be that as it may, the stories that
are contained in The Wizardís Map ( 156 pages), The Pictish Child
(146 pages ) and The Bagpiperís Ghost† (144 pages) take place
in the space of one holiday trip to Scotland. Each follows close upon the
heels of the one before, with only a few days passing in between.
The framework of the stories is somewhat
similar to what Andrea Spalding has been doing with her Summer of Magic Quartet,
except that itís an American family visiting Scotland instead of a Canadian
family visiting England.
The central character in the story
is 13 year old Jennifer. We have the strongest emotional link with her and
we share her reflections on the events which shape the familyís life while
they are visiting her motherís older cousins. She is experiencing problems
coping with her twin brother, Peter. they have always been close, but as they
are moving into their teen years, that closeness seems to be breaking down.
With them they have Molly, their 4
year sister, and their mom and dad, although these two donít play much of
a part in the stories. Of greater importance are Gran and Da, the cousins
who had looked after their mom when she was younger.
As the stories progress it emerges
that Gran is what we might call a White Witch, a practitioner of benign magiks.
As a result there are a number of artifacts around the house that lead to
adventures. The first is the map of book oneís title, a map belonging to Michael
Scot (an actual figure out of Scottish history). Peter is possessed by Scotís
restless spirit, the family is captured, and itís up to Jennifer to figure
out how to rescue them. I wonít tell you how, but she ends up with a talking
horse and dog at the end of that story.
In the second adventure, a few days
later, the chance (or is it?) gift of an ancient stone to Molly by one of
Granís friends triggers the arrival of a ghost out of Scotlandís 9th century
Pictish past and turns out to be the sign of a very real modern plot to assume
control of the eldersí ancient powers by an impatient younger woman. Mystic
energies chase Gran and the children about the community and into their house
before they can figure out what to do, how to quell the outbreak and defeat
the instigator of the problem.
In the final story the talking dog
leads the twins into a graveyard with tales of ghostly visitors and gets them
involved in a centuries old Romeo and Juliet story.
Yolen plays with the idea that there
a different types of magic for different places. Gran and others in these
stories, as well as the problems faced by Jennifer and her siblings, are representative
of old magic. The solutions to the problems, as found by Jennifer, often involve
a bit of New World ingenuity, as the twins, in particular, have to come up
with new ways of solving old dilemmas.
Peter is less of a problem solver in
these adventures. He is twice possessed by restless spirits and becomes part
of the problem himself. Molly is really too young to be really active in the
adventures, though she is the one who gets the special stone which triggers
events in book two.
Once the horse and the dog come into
the story, about midway through book one, they become important players in
the stories which follow, contributing both positively and negatively to the
I was charmed by the fact that all
of this adventure took place during a holiday, the way such stories always
took place in the Enid Blyton novels I read as a child. If that pattern were
to be followed, jennifer and her family could easily have some further adventures.
Yolen has an excellent web-site at
http://www.janeyolen.com/. The sections on these books have pictures of some
of the settings that inspired scenes in the books.