Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 11 May 2024

The Magician Next Door by Rachel Chivers Khoo, illustrated by Alice McKinley

You might think that moving from your home in London to the wilds of the Mourne Mountains in Northen Ireland would be excitement enough for most people. But what if, on top of that, the house of a magician lands upside down in your garden one day and then disappears? Well, that’s all on Callie’s list of extraordinary events. 

Her dad has moved to Northen Ireland for a new job, Callie’s mother has sadly died a little while before and she is struggling with a giant dose of homesickness. She just wants to be back in London with all her friends. An invisible house landing upside down in her garden wasn’t exactly what she was expecting.

Fortunately for Callie, a young boy, Sam, is her neighbour and he’s the kind of boy who is prepared to believe stories of flying houses – especially when Callie gets a magical note from the house’s owner, Winnifred the magician (not a witch – a magician: they have different hats). It turns out that Winnifred is in need of urgent help – her ability to move the location of her house depends on Wanderdust which powers all the magic and, mysteriously, she seems to have lost it. Unless she can get it back, she’s going to be at the mercy of all sorts of evil-smelling giants and fairies who are just bursting to ransack her house. Magicians and their house, it turns out, have a completely symbiotic relationship – if the house is lost, so is the magician.

Callie and Sam want to help Winnifred in any way they can but there’s just one big problem: the reason that the Wanderdust has flown off is because of…..Callie! Wanderdust, it seems, just can’t be around the negative vibes generated by Callie’s gigantic dose of homesickness. Unless she can find a way to combat her feelings that she doesn’t belong in Northern Ireland – that her real home is still in London – there’s nothing that can save Winnifred and her house.

Will the two new friends find a way to help Winnifred? Are they all just going to become the victims of the giants that smell like rotting cabbage? Will Callie be reconciled to her new home in time to stop the magician from fading away forever?

This is Belfast-born Rachel Chivers Khoo’s second children’s novel and she’s admirably aided and abetted by Alice McKinley who provides excellent full and part-page illustrations throughout.

If you want the answers to all those questions I’ve left hanging, you’ll just have to read the book because I’m not giving the answers away.

Published by Walker Books, you’ll be able to get a copy from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order you a copy if they don’t have it on their shelves.


Terry Potter

May 2024