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Little Willow
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Magic in Manhattan books by Sarah Mlynowski

In her Magic in Manhattan series, Sarah Mlynowski blends fantasy and comedy together to make one magical, funny smoothie. (Mmmm, strawberry-banana!) If you like Bewitched and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, then you'll definitely like these books.

Rachel thinks her life is pretty average - until she learns that her mother and her little sister Miri are witches and she is not. She's stuck being an ordinary high school girl while they're bonding over spells and potions. How unfair! Maybe, though, she can get some of Miri's talents to rub off on her - or on her crush, to make his head finally turn her way.

Bras & Broomsticks was Sarah Mlynowski's first book about Rachel and company. Rachel is a modern-day New York teen, and she's got the sassiness to prove it. The sprinkling of sibling rivalry betwixt and between the sisters is more about Sarah's envy of Miri's powers than either girl disliking the other. In fact, they get along quite well, and they're pretty close to their mom, with or without magic.

After Broomsticks came Frogs & French Kisses. Though Rachel has finally been permitted to hang out while Miri trains - as long as she wears a (very unfashionable helmet) when they go flying - she tends to be more of a hinderance than a help. It seems that wherever Rachel goes, trouble follows. Nevertheless, she sticks out her chin, grins, and tries again. And again. She might not be a witch, but she has a power all her own: determination.

On the very last page of Frogs, Rachel finally gets magical abilities, making readers both excited and anxious for another book. Mlynowski then delivered Spells & Sleeping Bags, a story set at summer camp, complete with pranks and twists of relativity. Rachel knows she should learn more about her new magic and use it sparingly, but it's all so tempting. When something witchy this way comes in the form of another camper, all bets are off. She also discovers that there may be some snakes hidden in the branches of her family tree.

In the fourth book, Parties & Potions, Rachel and Miri find out that witches have a "debutante-slash-bat-mitzvah-slash-quinceañera witch party thing" called a Samsorta on an island off of Romania on Halloween. (Warlocks do too, only their coming-of-age event is called Simsorta instead, and it can take place anywhere in the world.) Miri really wants to take part, and her mom lets her - as long as Rachel does it as well. Meanwhile, a witch named Wendaline enrolls as a freshman at Rachel's high school. Though she tells Wendaline to tone down the witchiness at school, Rachel begins to socialize with other witches and warlocks on the weekend, thanks to Samsorta classes (and Miri's newest obsession: Mywitchbook.com). She worries about her future with Raf, her "norlock" (no magic, normal human) boyfriend who doesn't know she's a witch, and she begins to wonder if it would be better to date a warlock, like cute, friendly Adam. While learning the witchy language of Brixta and trying new spells that don't always succeed, Rachel is still the fun-loving, good-natured character fans of the Magic in Manhattan series have come to know and love.

Read the books in order:
Bras & Broomsticks
Frogs & French Kisses
Spells & Sleeping Bags
Parties & Potions

Check out my 2009 interview with author Sarah Mlynowski!

Check out my 2010 interview with Sarah Mlynowski!

I reviewed this series for SparkNotes SparkLife.

I also included this series on my Funny Fantasy Novels for Kids and Teens booklist.

Tags: books, reviews, series, sparklife
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