The Wall of Willows (Magic Mirror)

Written by Luther Tsai Nury Vittachi
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Modern-day middle schoolers Marko and Miranda use their grandfather’s magic mirror to journey back in time to 210 BCE China. The first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang. is dying and as a final wish wants his soft-hearted son, Fusu, to inherit the throne. Unfortunately, evil Chancellor Gao Zhao has a previous order condemning Fusu to death. Neither order has the emperor’s stamp, but Marko and Miranda have the stamp. They must find Fusu before Gao Zhao, to save the prince’s life. To do so, they travel along the Great Wall of China and get help from the legendary Lady of the Wall.

There is no need to read the earlier books in the series, as brief background is given about the children, their grandfather, and the magic of the mirror. This episode is full of exciting conflict and interesting Chinese history and legend, with an afterward clarifying fact from fiction. Much like the Magic Tree House books, this story is a good balance of suspense and history. Intended for slightly older audiences, the characters are in middle school and the reading level is slightly more advanced. Its focus on Asian history is a welcome addition to the genre. A good choice for reluctant readers and for book-loving children interested in discovering legends less well known to Western culture.