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A Well-Timed Enchantment

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Gr 5-7 --Deanna, 15, drops her watch in a well, thus beginning a frenetic adventure in tenth-century France. Her first encounter is with elves wearing rock `n' roll T-shirts, who take her to task for mucking up time by throwing her Mickey Mouse watch into an astral loophole. Deanna is dispatched to find her watch, aided by her cat, Oliver, now transformed into a young man. Following a road ``paved with red polka-dot linoleum and marked with a flashing road-construction arrow,'' the duo (now magically clothed in tenth-century garb) become involved with a mannered French family that includes an evil sorcerer, a pair of competitive brothers, and their sire. What follows is confusing, with problems in continuity thickening the stew. On one page, a sequence in which Deanna follows Oliver and Lady Marguerite toward their rooms is interrupted by a scene with a lovesick brother. The earlier scene is then resumed in a new chapter. Never fear. Everything works out: the sorcerer is not evil after all, Deanna retrieves the watch with the help of a pig-keeper who is marginally introduced, and Deanna and Oliver return to contemporary times. The characters are developed with exaggerated strokes, and the anachronisms that frame the book are jarring. However, the book's conclusion is pleasingly ambiguous, as Deanna, now in love with Oliver despite his currently feline form, prepares to make one more wish at the well. For a better crafted medieval fantasy adventure with a likable heroine, try Lloyd Alexander's Westmark (Dutton, 1981). --Carolyn Noah, Worcester Public Library, MA

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