Cover Image: A Taste of Magic

A Taste of Magic

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Member Reviews

Another good book with POC.  I enjoy the sense of community and bringing folks together that is found in many of the POC books that I have been reading lately.  The magic element is always a plus so this book combines them well.
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From my blog post:  If you read Wings Of Ebony, you will feel right at home in The Taste Of Magic because the setting is close but distinctly it’s own anddd we get Kyana. Kyana is not only this funny, intelligent and community-minded kid who loves to bake (I craved baked goods a lot while reading) but she also learns that there is so much more to her than she could’ve ever imagined beginning with the fact that magic is actually real. She goes on this amazing journey of self-discovery, gaining new friends (outside of her BFF, Nae, and her Memaw) along the way and solving the problems that she finds in her path which would make anyone want to root for her. Kyana’s voice is one that is definitely worth listening to and I, personally, can’t wait to hear more of it!
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I enjoyed the mix of cooking and magic in a middle grade fantasy, and I thought a lot of things about the novel were exemplary, it had a lot of good ideas. I'm afraid I found the plot really confusing and hard to follow though.
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This book is simply adorable and perfect for any middle grade readers who want a book about magic school. When Kyana finds out that she's a witch, she also finds out that she has to go to magic school every Saturday. And of course she loves it! But when she finds out that the magic school might have to close, she has to engage the community and get support to save her school! 

There are a few elements from this story that get me every time. The family element - especially her relationship with her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's. Kyana also is passionate about baking, and that passion ends up helping her with her magic. And the community working together for a cause? That definitely got my heartstrings going! 

Five stars! I highly recommend this middle grade and I can't wait for the next one in the series!
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A Taste of Magic is a really unique take on a magic school and magic system! Park Row Magick Academy is not the super fancy magic school you’re use to. It’s located in the back of a Black woman owned beauty salon. The school is extremely underfunded and lacking the resources it needs for it’s students to thrive. It has only lasted this long because of its dedicated teacher Ms. Mo. PRMA mirrors many of the schools in poor, underfunded areas all over this country.

Middle grade stories have some of the most genuine and pure relationships. Kyana has a multigenerational living arrangement with her mama and Memaw. They are such a tight knit family even though Kyana’s mom works a lot. Aside from Kyana, Memaw was my favorite character! She was constantly dropping this little nuggets of wisdom and nurturing Kyana’s passions which reminded me of my own grandma 🥰 I also adored Kyana’s friendship with Nae and the new bonds she formed with the Magic kids at Park Row Magick Academy like Ash and Russ. 

A key takeaway from A Taste of Magic is that a Black child can make a mistake and not be vilified for it. Too often in our society black and brown kids are not given the grace to make mistakes and learn from them. It was refreshing to see Kyana be allowed to make a mistake, realize it and come up with a solution with the support of not only her family but the witch community as well.

The common household substitutions for magical ingredients Kyana found and used from the old spell book Memaw gave her were really ingenious! For example creaming together Kool Aid powder and cocoa butter as a substitute for slug skin paste when making the antidote potion.

The food descriptions throughout the book had my mouth watering. I never wanted a bowl of gumbo or a slice of cake so bad in my life! Being a GA girl, I agree with Memaw that the best food you’ll ever find is down south 😉

So much of this story resonated with me and I know BIPOC kids especially Black kids are going to love it. I can’t wait to see where this new series goes!

Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books for an eARC of A Taste of Magic in exchange for an honest review.
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For her twelfth birthday, Kyana finds out she has magic.  She is excited but can't tell anyone, which creates problems between her and her best friend Nae.  When the Saturday magic school she attends is being forced to close down, Kyana sets off on a solution to keep it open.
Opinion
Being a big fan of paranormal books, this one called to me.  I was not disappointed with.  This book held my captivation from start to finish.  I loved reading the voice of a 12 year old African American girl.  It was authentic for an OWN voice book with the narration being what I would expect.  Add in that her grandmother was Creole, the language was fun and exciting to read. 
The story itself was original and intriguing.  When Kyana sets off to save the day, thing go awry.  However, the mischief that ensues made the story so much fun to read.  
I would recommend this to any middle grades child who likes books about magic, adventure or is looking for an OWN voice book.
Many thanks to Net Galley and Bloomsbury USA Children's Books for providing me with an ARC of this book.
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Kyana is your average 12-year-old. She lives at home with her Mama and Meemaw, and she just found out she's a witch. This middle grade fantasy that's cute, funny, and relatable. A Taste of Magic was a very cute story that shines light on experiences from the Black community, all while creating a character that is more relatable to the under represented. I'm an adult so the reading portion was a little slow for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version!
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Thank you to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for the ARC of this book. All opinions are my own. 

I absolutely loved J. Elle's Wings of Ebony duology, so when I heard she was jumping into middle grade- I had to read it. I was not disappointed! This was sweet and fun, with a great world and fun magic system. I loved her ability to delicately balance real-world issues and the fun of having magic. This is a must read for anyone! I can't wait to see what's next!
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Elle pours so much heart and soul into this book that it’s impossible to not find something to love about it. Broadly speaking, one of its strongest aspects is how alive everything feels — in a literal and figurative sense. Elle’s worldbuilding is rich and vibrant, from the way she describes Park Row, to the scents that come from a hearty home-cooked meal, and the magic itself within the story. She includes familiar aspects and adds her own inventive spin on them. (For example, curl pattern activated wands. How cool is that?!) Every detail is important and lends itself to the story in some way. Elle is deliberate in what she includes, not wasting a single opportunity to revisit each crumb she lays out.

One thing that’s also stuck with me since reading is the emphasis Elle places on home cooking and food in general. For starters, every meal she includes is bound to have readers’ mouths watering solely from the way she describes everything. Throughout, it’s also clear how food plays an important role in Kyana’s life. It connects her with her mother and grandmother, her ancestors, and her magic. Moreover, it connects Kyana to her community. It illustrates how tight-knit Kyana is with those around her, especially those she regularly encounters. As I was reading this book, I only ever equated food to love. It brought back fond memories, and I hope that other readers gain that experience while reading.

Kyana shines as a protagonist. She’s a big-hearted, clever, and endearingly funny young girl. (I’m personally a fan of her distaste towards Math.) She also comes from a family who struggles financially, with her mother working multiple jobs to keep them afloat. As such, Kyana helps however she can, and in Kyana’s home life, Elle continues to keep every element of this story connected. For Kyana, magic is an opportunity she once could only dream about, even if it’s just to help more with household chores. Elle takes care to highlight how the Turners’ financial standing affects Kyana’s life. In many ways, it bars her from activities her peers don’t think twice about. But despite this, Elle preserves Kyana’s childhood. She ensures readers don’t forget the circumstances that have shaped Kyana, but Elle allows Kyana her wonder, her middle school drama, and her childish moments. She grows from her mistakes and embraces her strengths.

Similarly, Kyana’s friendships also provide young readers a safe space to lose themselves in. Like anyone, Kyana faces her ups and downs, which is most notable with her best friend Naomi (aka Nae). As Kyana must keep her magic a secret, she and Nae face some tension. Regardless, they continue to hold affection for one another. Through every frustration, Elle protects their friendship while providing them the space to feel everything. Ashley (aka Ash) is another wonderful character and complement to Kyana. Readers will enjoy watching Ash grow and flourish as a character just as much as they do Kyana.

Elle has already demonstrated her prowess with her YA novels, and she continues to do so with A Taste of Magic. She creates an enchanting contemporary fantasy that’s accessible to any reader who picks it up. While magic, of course, is interwoven into the fabric of the story, Elle deftly grounds her world in reality. With or without its fantasy elements, the book offers young readers like Kyana and her friends a loving reflection of themselves. (I cannot emphasize enough the LOVE and comfort that just pours out of this book.) They will walk away with a sense of empowerment, a host of wonderful life lessons, and the knowledge that they are seen and understood.
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I became a fan of J.Elle's after reading her Wings of Ebony duology, and it was exciting to see her write a middle grade fantasy and to see how that would be similar and different. It's got a younger protagonist and younger edge, but it has a lot of the same flavor as Wings of Ebony. I like the magic being set in the real world because I think it makes readers feel like they could fit in right along side these characters. And what I love most about this book is that it gives young Black kids from communities like Park Row the opportunity to see themselves in a fun, magical, and honest way. Many kids can relate to Kyana, a girl who has things she struggles with (like understanding her math class – me too, Kyana), but also has things she's excited about (discovering magic!) and people she loves to death. Sometimes Kyana struggles to balance it all, but I definitely think readers will enjoy this kid's heart. This book has magical mishaps, hidden society drama, strange creatures, and potions, but it feels really grounded and relatable. And the coolest part is that the core of the story is about a young girl who desperately loves her community and will do anything to fight for it. Young kids can read this story and see that people like them, people their age can do a lot to make a difference in their communities, and it has far more to do with Kyana's heart and courage than her magic. Overall, it was an enjoyable read. Fans of Wings of Ebony will definitely want to share this one with their middle grade readers!
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Advanced Reader’s Copy provided by NetGalley, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, and Bloomsbury Children's Books in exchange for an honest review.

As someone that enjoys cooking and especially baking, I loved that J. Elle used that as a way to connect the main character, Kyana, to magic. It's a real-life intuitive skill that lends itself well to being connected to magical elements. I thought the overall concept of A TASTE OF MAGIC was good, but wish that there was not so much responsibility put on these tweens (while acknowledging that there are many children in America Kyana's age or younger that have had to take on adult responsibilities, or are growing up with a keen understanding of the financial inequalities in this country). It broke my heart that at her core, Kyana wanted to excel at magic just so her mom didn't have to work so hard all the time.

The characters are interesting, the writing style and dialogue is engaging, and this is a magic in the every day world type of setting which will definitely appeal to readers who are hesitant about reading straight up fantasy novels. I felt like the magic system could have been explained better, but am not sure this will impact readers of the targeted age demographic like it does me as an adult.

Overall, a pretty great start to a new middle grade series!
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Kyana knew her twelfth birthday would be special, but she never thought it would be this special! Now that she’s twelve, Kyana learns that she’s a witch and has amazing magical powers that she has to learn to control at the Park Row Magic Academy every Saturday. Yup, Saturday, the day of her best friend’s birthday party. But already, Kyana is dreaming of all the cool things she’ll be able to do to help her mother and grandmother out. It’s not always easy to make ends meet, but Kyana is determined to help out. If she can specialize in flashy Charms, she’ll be set! Too bad she’s much better at Potions. Also, the academy has been dealing with funding issues, and it’s not looking too good for the school. If the school shuts down, all the students will have to go across town and pay a hefty fee to be able to keep their magic! Kyana is determined to find a way to save the school, and all her neighborhood’s magic!

I received an advanced reading copy of A Taste of Magic in exchange for an honest review.

A Taste of Magic is a middle grade fantasy novel by J. Elle. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she’s also the author of the Wings of Ebony series, which I reviewed here on my blog. This is J. Elle’s debut in middle grade, and I was so excited for the chance to read it!

From the very start, we’re immersed in Kyana’s youthful voice, and her first person POV leads us through the whole novel. This means the novel is very easy to read, and moves quite quickly throughout! I found it incredibly easy to sit down and read, and the pages just flew by! Of course, Kyana herself had a lot to do with that.

I loved the character of Kyana. She can be very excitable, but, like any twelve-year-old, she makes mistakes and often doubts herself. But she makes up for it with determination and by dreaming big. I also loved how much of her personality was ingrained in her cooking, but it wasn’t cooking in isolation. Kyana cooks with her Memaw throughout the story, and you can really see how much it means to both of them to have that time together, to not just make tasty food, but also share experiences and history through recipes. Food can be so special, and can even bring people together. I think we often forget that when cooking at the end of the day, when we’re tired and the last thing we want to do is stand over the stove. But Kyana reminded me of that, and I loved how much she loved cooking!

The plot was also exciting! Kyana has a lot to deal with in this book, some normal kid stuff, and other stuff most kids definitely don’t deal with! We get the usual friend drama, because, after all, Kyana is not allowed to tell her non-Magick best friend about her new witchy abilities. We get some family drama, with Memaw starting to get forgetful, and her mother struggling to pay the bills. We even get school trouble, where Kyana struggles to make sense of math! But also there’s the fact that the Park Row Magic Academy is being shut down, and also the fact that not all of Kyana’s spells work the way they’re supposed to, and often cause much more trouble that she has to fix later. It made for a jam-packed book, and I kept wondering at how Elle kept piling on problems on poor Kyana. But Kyana is a strong character, and I never should have doubted her.

A Taste of Magic is a book full of heart and magic, and one I’d recommend to middle grade readers and older! Maybe even younger too, if they can read at this level! In fact, I think it would be a great book to read as a family, and my copy had some recipes at the end that could be fun for the whole family to try together after turning the last page. I know I’ll definitely be trying those recipes myself!

A Taste of Magic will be released on August 30. You can preorder your copy from Bloomsbury here.
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Kyana has just found out that she is a witch. She has to balance her new weekend witch training, middle school classes, and her friends. What happens when all of a sudden her witch training school is going to be shut down, she makes a mistake while trying to save it, and she her best friend is mad at her? Well that’s a lot for one 12 year old girl. 
This book isn’t just about magic and cooking. There are so many great things discussed like owning your mistakes, apologizing when your wrong, and so many others. I think this would make such a great middle school book club book. (I might even do it for my middle school library.) I will definitely get a copy and recommend it.
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A charming story about a magic school, baking, friendship, and determination. When Kyana discovers she's a witch she finds herself lying to her BFF, trying to learn spells that will help her overworked mom around the house, and entering a baking competition to save the magic school in her neighborhood. I loved the determination Kyana had to fix her mistakes, prove adults around her wrong, and show that even though she and her friends are young, they can solve big problems.  Middle school students will truly enjoy it!
Thanks, NetGalley!
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I loved loved loved this middle grade! The ,magic and plot just swept me away and all the references to food was just so fun to see in a middle grade. Our maiin character is loveable and you root for her from the start. I think over all this is exactly what i would recommend to new readers and readers who love fantasy.
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Let me start with this, J. Elle never fails. This book was delightful! We meet a sweet main character thrusts into a world of magik that she wasn’t even aware of. Her heart is pure and her connection with her beautiful grandmother is such a rich addition to the story. As it did in Wings of Ebony, food plays a critical role in this story. For my HEA family, this one is for us!
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A magic school in a real world setting and some baking too!

I liked that this book is set in a regular town and focuses on some middle school kids instead of creating a fantasy land for witches.  The characters are relatable and their struggles can be translated to real world issues.  

This story isn't overly complex and a bit predictable, but a good amount of content for the intended age group.

I hope Kyana has some follow-up adventures now that she has figured out her magic more.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this ARC for my honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book. Kyana is a great character and I forgot that she is only twelve sometimes. Getting to go through the discovery of her magic as she does was wonderful.
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I want to start by saying this is my first J.Elle book and I’m so glad that I read it. I have tried to read Wings of Ebony but couldn’t get through how annoyed I was with Rue. While I did find myself annoyed with Kyana, I loved her even more. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA Children for providing me an eARC in exchange for a honest review. A Taste of Magic was full of lessons for adults and children.
First, I love magic schools and I really want to see what happens to PRMA. This novel was full of fun moments as often as heavy moments. It has the perfect mix of living and learning that is perfect for children and middle grade readers. Being able to see a healthy household of Black women is also something that I loved about the book. 

I honestly do not have any negative comments about the book. I’m not a hate reader an me finishing says a lot. But, I do feel like I would love to see Kyana and the gang develop as witches and wizards.

I definitely recommend this book; I left considering themes of forgiveness, consideration, and servicing the community.
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Thanks to Bloomsbury/NetGalley for the ARC! I really enjoyed how magic imbued the neighborhood and came from quotidian places in Park Row. Can't wait to see more of that worldbuilding in the next book! 3.5 stars
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