Wizards and Warlocks in Oak Park

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By Helen Kossler

Reading Between the Lines

A few weeks ago Michael Scott came to the Magic Tree Book Store to talk to his fans. Scott, who is Irish, was doing a book tour for his latest release, The Warlock.  He said that warlock is not a magical word, but means betrayer. (My unabridged Random House Dictionary, however, defines it as a man aided by the devil in practicing the magical arts.) It is the fifth book of a planned series of six chapter books for middle age children. Scott told the audience that he had outlined the entire series before he began to write.

He said that he had worked in a bookstore for years, and that when you do that, you often begin to think that you could write a book every bit as good as the ones you are unpacking from boxes and putting up on the shelves. So, he decided to write.

He is an expert in world mythologies which he uses in his series. It took him ten years to research the series and now he writes one book while plotting the next one. Most interesting was his assertion that the majority of his characters are drawn from historical figures. Nicholas Flamel was real, as was Flamel’s wife and Dr. John Dee. Not a lot is known about them, so Scott fleshed them out, so to speak. The only original characters are the twins, Sophie and Josh.

The audience sat raptly as he spoke and asked intriguing questions.  Because I was new to the series, I asked Zane, a boy who was sitting in front of me, what he thought about them.  He was hesitant to speak at first, but once he got going about the characters, and the plots, he had a hard time stopping. He confided that his friend had loaned him the first two books which he liked a lot.  He had brought those books to be signed by the author plus the ones he had purchased.  He said that he’d share his copy of The Warlock with his friend.

I’ve been attending a lot of author appearances doing this blog and it is astonishing how varied these appearances are and what they reveal about the writer.  Michael Scott was exceedingly respectful and polite to his young questioners, taking their comments seriously and answering them as one book lover to another. It was a delight to see the readers squirm with anticipation as he talked about the characters and related plot points to other installments in the series. It was obvious that these readers were anxious to talk about the books.

There are many more types of books in the young adult genre now than when my children were in fourth to eighth grade. It was wonderful to see how intensely these young readers interacted with the plot and the author.  These students will become life long readers because the written page speaks to them now in ways that literature never does again. I can still remember the books that I loved when I was 10, such as the The Secret Garden. And I can still recall the exquisite pleasure of an afternoon of summer reading lost in a book. 

I like the fact that Michael Scott is bringing to these impressionable minds the great stories that have occupied mankind for millennia. Myths grapple with the great puzzles of human existence and the readers of his books will think about more than the plots of these stories. It’s a great introduction to world literature.

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