[Book Review] The Secret of the Attic (Magic Attic Club, #1) by Sheri Cooper Sinykin

Alison, Heather, Keisha, and Megan find a golden key that turns out to unlock the attic in a neighbor's old Victorian house. Once inside, Keisha spots a trunk filled with wonderful costumes—ball gowns, a ballet tutu, and many, many more.

It's not long before the best friends find beautiful dresses that seem meant for them. And when they stand together in front of the old-fashioned mirror, they suddenly find themselves on an adventure in the past!

At first they don't know what's happened, or how to help the young girl whose Christmas party seems ruined. Why dos she look so familiar? And how will they ever get back home? The answers they discover are the beginnings of the Magic Attic Club!

I'm sure most people who either were or raised a little girl after 1986 are familiar with the American Girl dolls and their corresponding books. The Magic Attic Club franchise is similar, though far more obscure (it also seems to have gone out of business or otherwise been discontinued); rather than American Girl's historical characters who are sold as dolls and star in their own series of chapter books, the Magic Attic Club is a set of four (later six) modern characters who are sold as dolls and star in one continuous series of fantasy chapter books.

The premise of the Magic Attic Club series is simple: four girls—Heather Harden, Keisha Vance, Megan Ryder, and Alison McCann—discover that the mirror in their neighbor's attic has the magical ability to send them through time and space to a place corresponding with whatever costume they try on. Dressing up as a princess will result in a fantasy adventure in your typical quasi-medieval Europe setting; dressing up as a cheerleader will whisk you away to a cheerleading camp; and dressing up in an Olympic skater's outfit will have you competing for gold on the ice. It's an interesting concept, a bit similar to the Magic Tree House series, but rather than focusing on teaching history or science, it focuses on teaching social lessons like confidence, leadership, and bravery.

In The Secret of the Attic, Sheri Cooper Sinykin introduces readers to the original four girls, the concept of the magic attic, and the owner of the magic attic, an elderly woman named Ellie. Helping others is a major of theme of the book, but as far as I'm concerned, the subplot is far more interesting. It's Christmastime, and Megan, Keisha, and Alison have invited Heather, the new girl, to their celebration... but Heather's Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas, which leaves her feeling awkward and a bit alienated; she has yet to tell her friends any of this. Obviously, she finally does and is reassured by her friends; she and Keisha even bond a bit over some of the similarities between Chanukah and Kwanzaa traditions.

All in all, it's a cute story; nothing groundbreaking, but a nice way to introduce the series nonetheless. It might be a nice thing to read during the holidays if your child, like Heather, is feeling awkward about not celebrating Christmas or, conversely, might need some help understanding how children who don't celebrate Christmas might feel a bit left out during that time of year. If you can get your hands on the series, I definitely recommend giving it a try; perhaps its strongest aspect is how multi-ethnic it is, with the core cast of characters including two ethnically unspecified white girls, a Sephardi Jewish girl, an African American girl, and a Native American girl. Of the three girls whose ethnicities are identified, their cultural history is considered very much a part of the characters, being referenced throughout the series and explored as thoroughly as possible, given the short length and young audience of the books.

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