My review of middle grade fantasy Freckles: The Dark Wizard by Jerry Harwood
At Flame Rock Middle School, you show off your big biceps, post your dimples on InstaWitch, grow a cheetah tail, or use your fairy wings to fly down the hall. For Simon, wearing his peers’ opinions can be a literal event. Especially since Simon has the visible mark of a weak wizard… freckles. What will happen when Simon learns he has dark magic and can conjure a dragon? Will he become one of the bullies he hated or choose a different path?
Excerpt from Freckles: The Dark Wizard
At least at school Simon was visible. Dean Abacus stood at the front door. He didn’t tolerate middle school foolishness, or at least not whenever he could stop it. As students approached he would welcome them. He would also clear his throat if anyone was out of dress code, had misshapen features, or was trying to pass as some humanoid animal combination.
Dean Abacus harrumphed as one boy walked in. He had tried to hide a pair of eagle wings with a large coat. The coat shrank two sizes as the wings avaporated. Evaporated is when something turns from a liquid into a vapor. Avaporated is when a wizard turns from his or her projected form to the person’s natural form. A person would also avaporate if a local wizard’s or group of wizards’ projection was stronger than the person. Adult wizards seldom had such issues, but young wizards in middle school often found their imagecast informed by others. Adults, such as Dean Abacus, were powerful enough to avaporate any form they thought to be too silly whether it was by the students’ doing or someone else’s. They also tried to keep students from avaporating into anything too dangerous. The dean, while stern, also had a soft side. Dean Abacus tilted his glasses down to the edge of his nose and looked at Simon’s sister.
“Tabitha? Purple hair?”
“Dean, it isn’t against dress code. I mean, what if this was my natural color?”
Dean Abacus smiled and then looked to Simon. “Oh, Simon, how are you this morning!”
“Just glad to be off the bus,” Simon mumbled.
“I didn’t even see you get off the bus. But come on in. You will need to return your color to normal.”
Dean Abacus harrumphed again and Simon watched his faded skin return to its normal, pasty white. As color returned, so did the freckles along his arm. “And those torn jeans will not do.”
The dean pointed his finger and Simon’s jeans mended where the goat had gnawed a hole.
“You boys and your weird fashions,” Dean Abacus said, largely to himself.
Entering the hallway, Simon saw Danzig, and his stomach churned. Simon could see Danzig’s lips curling in preparation to call him names. Simon changed direction and walked over to the corner where the lost and found table was. He shuffled through smelly t-shirts, single socks, and twelve vacuum-packed frogs. He tried to look like he was genuinely looking for something. Danzig, with his buddies Krull and Cedrick, finally made their way down the hall. Simon waited another minute before heading toward his homeroom, just in case the three boys were waiting on him.
Review of Freckles: The Dark Wizard
This was a cute read. I liked the idea of freckles being tied to magical ability. They seem like such an unassuming thing—further proof that anything can be made into the fantastic.
While I enjoyed the book and concept overall, I felt a bit distanced from the characters at times. I’m not quite sure why, but I didn’t get as pulled into the story as I thought I would. Regardless, there were some great lessons about growing up, bullying, and being yourself in here, and that was all handled very well.
My reading experience aside, I definitely recommend this, especially for kids who want to get into fantasy. It was quick, fun, and meaningful.
About Jerry Harwood
Jerry Harwood was born in Ooltewah, TN. His mother was an elementary school teacher and he spent his afternoons reading books in her classroom or the nearby library. He has experimented with other occupations: camp director, program director at a counseling center, college professor and middle school teacher. Jerry has backpacked Europe, taught in a Ukrainian University, worked in Rwanda after the genocide, is a first responder, sort-of remodeled a VW Thing, and has a love for Cherry Coke Zero that is only surpassed by his love for his wife, six children, and grandson.
Jerry attended college at UT Chattanooga where he was in university honors and majored in Latin and classical literature. He has two master’s degrees, nearing completion on a third. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he is an active member of the Chattanooga Writer’s Guild, the Atlanta Writer’s Club, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
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Jerry Harwood will be awarding two autographed print copies of the book, (U.S. only), to two randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.