April 28, 2016

Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen

Wizard's Hall 1999 cover

Wizard’s Hall 1999 cover

Lara here, and I’d like to share a book many of you have probably never heard of. A boy goes to wizard school where doors change based on the day of the week and portraits talk, he makes some friends, and attends magic classes. Then he finds out there’s an evil wizard threatening the school and everyone in it. But he and his friends are able to defeat the evil wizard and save the school.

Still never heard of it? Are you sure?

It’s a short book called Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen. It was first published in 1991 and is about a boy named Henry who lives with his hard working mother and one cow. When he mentions off-handly wanting to maybe be a wizard, his mother joyfully sends him off to Wizard’s Hall, the closest school for aspiring wizards and witches. Once there, a blind wizard and a fuzzy white rodent rename him Thornmallow, because he’s “prickly on the outside, squishy within.” Although that squishy part is taken on faith.

In the school itself, Thornmallow learns to fall asleep to a star filled ceiling that recites the names of glowing constellations, and to always walk left down hallways to get to class on time. His friends help him remember the various rules of Wizard’s Hall and how to change his soup from lizard to beef. (Not that this makes it taste any less brown.)

Unfortunately, Thornmallow is finding himself woefully bad at Spelling and Curses and Chanting, and his Transformations best go unmentioned. But just when he thinks it might be best to give up and go home, he overhears the teachers discussing the terrible Master, coming the very next night to destroy the school and swallow every last person inside his frightful quilted Beast. There is some hope though, because so long as the school has one hundred and thirteen students, they have some hope of defeating the Master, and Thornmallow is that essential one-thirteen.

Wizard’s Hall is a short, but highly imaginative story with colorful descriptions and interesting characters. The magic is fun, wizards make spells through careful word choice and clear tones, and their results can be anything from subtle light effects, to an avalanche of snow, to people unraveling into shining thread. Thornmallow is a quiet boy, shy if a bit sharp tongued, but he means well. He may not have much talent for magic, but he tries.

This may be an older book, but it’s still a good read, and I definitely recommend picking it up and giving it a go!


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