Middle-schoolers at the mall and in the Underworld

Young Readers

March 05, 2006|By MARY HARRIS RUSSELL | MARY HARRIS RUSSELL,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The Shadow Thieves

Anne Ursu

Ptolemy's Gate

Jonathan Stroud

Miramax/Hyperion / $17.95 / Ages 12-15

The final book in a series is often the most difficult to bring off. Jonathan Stroud is successful, largely because, from the beginning in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, he created a character, the genie Bartimaeus, whose witty overview and curmudgeonly interactions with the central characters are believable. Bartimaeus narrates some chapters, and we learn his history from the times of Ptolemy in much detail. In other chapters an omniscient narrator follows Nathaniel, now a high political minister in the government of magic, and Kitty, whom we've followed from her entrance into the world of the Resistance, those opposing the magicians ruling England. The race to the final scenes is gripping and tough-minded.

Mary Harris Russell teaches English at Indiana University Northwest and reviews children's books for the Chicago Tribune.

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