At some point everyone feels like an outsider. In Penny Sinclair’s case she is a 13-year-old girl moving to a new town after the death of her mother. She has spent four months living in a group home and now is headed to the small town of Dogwood to live with her godmother Susan, who was best friends with Penny’s mother.
As soon as Penny moves into her home she notices a fox that seems to always be watching her. She has already been having mysterious dreams and doesn’t feel comfortable in her new surroundings. When she is outside one day the fox speaks to her, in fear she runs away but she can’t escape her destiny.
What Penny doesn’t know is that her mother once belonged to a group of witches called The Phoenix Girls and she is about to become one of them. The Phoenix Girls Book 1: The Conjuring Glass by Brian Knight is the first in a series from JournalStone Publishing that young horror fans will enjoy. In a secret grove behind her new home is a cave, wands, magic keys and a book on how to become proper witches.
Penny is not alone, she soon meets another girl who has just arrived in town named Zoe and the two of them start training to become witches. Their spells don’t work half the time but they’re determined to keep trying. Something wicked is coming to Dogwood in the form of a magician with a big secret. The children of Dogwood start to disappear one by one and Penny and Zoe may be the only ones that can help.
The Conjuring Glass is a story geared towards middle school children and has a couple of themes that all kids can relate to. One is trying to fit in with other kids. Penny and Zoe are both outcasts because they are new in town and both are adjusting to their new surroundings. They have each other though and work well as a team. They learn magic together and get help with bullies from the talking fox. As the story develops, the girls are left to their own devices to rescue the kidnapped kids.
Another theme that is in this book is abandonment and loneliness. When Penny comes to Dogwood she feels that she is alone in the world. She is dealing with the loss of her mother, but also wonders who her father was and what happened to him. Penny is obsessed with finding him and her obsession leads her and the whole town into danger. I really enjoyed how the mystery of Penny’s father worked into the story.
While I did think that The Conjuring Glass was slow-moving at points, there was a lot to like about the book. All of the characters reminded me of kids that I once knew. I also think young readers will be able to relate to both Penny and Zoe. The setting and atmosphere were great and I liked the fate of the town’s children lying in the hands of two young witches. My favorite part was when Penny stands up to a bully that was much bigger then she was. It showed that Penny was a tough character and I found myself rooting for her. I think most young kids will love the mystery in The Phoenix Girls: Book 1 The Conjuring Glass and they will appreciate the spooky parts also. I would love to see where the story of The Phoenix Girls goes in future installments.