Music Boxes, by Tonja Drecker

Music boxes is a pre-teen adventure with a little horror. It is a fairy tale with a wicked witch, a magic amulet, and clear good and evil.  One should not spend too much time picking at the logical consistency of a fairy tale .  To a young reader, which is certainly the target audience, the tale is a magical adventure filled with joy, anguish, suspense, and love.  It’s a thrilling story and the author guides her readers through with a light touch and rich descriptions.

Lindsay, the twelve-year-old girl at the center of the story, has moved with her family to New York City so that her younger sister, Brigit, can attend Juliard as a violin prodigy.  Lindsay is a budding ballet dancer who is consigned to classes at the run-down community center.  Lindsay is not happy, but that changes when she happens upon the mistress of a magical dance studio.  Inside, she is lost in a world of dancing like she never knew was possible.  Lindsay sneaks out by herself at night to dance for Madame Destinee, and quickly finds herself caught up in a fantastic world where all is not what it seems and where children who wander off without their parents can find themselves in gingerbread houses where witches live.  Lindsay will need to be brave and resourceful to escape the peril and save her friends.

Like most fairy tales , parents can buy this book for their little boys and girls safe in the knowledge that there is a happy ending.  There might be a few nightmares generated by the sometimes scary story, but in the end love and bravery win out while Lindsay learns a lesson about the evil of jealousy and the need for hard work rather than magic to accomplish your dreams.  As a children’s book, this is all fine, and the star-rating above is based on how the book is likely to be perceived by a young reader.

As a book for adults, the story is full of loose ends and convenient coincidences. There’s a dream/nightmare sequence that provides too much plot information, an amazingly opportunistic scene when Lindsay opens a door at the exact right time to see what she needs to see, without getting caught in the act, and a downstairs neighbor who has inside knowledge, but gives only cryptic advice and allows Lindsay to go face the witch on her own. The characters lack much depth (and in a few cases are barely there), and the relationships between the characters are one-dimensional and don’t have a chance to really develop. The parts that are scary and suspenseful to a child are only mildly so to a grown-up. I would not recommend this as an independent read for an adult, but I would love to read it aloud to my ten-year-old.

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