Nina, the 11-year-old protagonist of Korelitz's first novel for children, struggles with school but loves art and music. When a substitute art teacher recommends she jazz up a picture by adding some interference powder (in real life, it's a medium that adds luster to paints and inks), Nina gets more than she bargained for: the powder "interferes" with reality. Suddenly it is Nina, not her friend Isobel, who has the top score on a class test—and who is entered, reluctantly, in a "brain-buster" competition. Later, when Nina uses the powder to wish for singing lessons, she finds herself singing beautifully—even when she wants simply to talk. Korelitz brings little novelty to familiar conventions. The magic predictably misbehaves even as it teaches Nina valid lessons about being true to herself; a cooling-off period between Nina and a newly jealous Isobel ends with apologies that forge an even stronger friendship. Tepid entertainment. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)
FYI: Korelitz's novels for adults include Sabbathday River; she is also the wife of poet Paul Muldoon .