cover image The Call

The Call

Michael Grant, HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-183366-3

Grant, author of the Gone series, takes a comedic turn, launching the middle-grade Magnificent 12 series about a boy with multiple phobias forced to help save the world. After saving the life of the school's toughest bully, 12-year-old Mack, who fears everything from spiders to the ocean, is visited by the ancient wizard Grimluk, who charges Mack with gathering the "Magnifica," a group of 12 magical 12-year-olds who can defeat the ancient Pale Queen and her daughter. Mack's adventures take him to Australia (a flight that triggers many of Mack's phobias) and alternate with flashbacks to Grimluk's original battle against the Pale Queen. Mack's bully baiting and dispatching of poisonous snakes down the garbage disposal don't exactly emphasize his unlikely heroism, but the story's abundant action and humor—from the rampant ignorance of Grimluk's day (when the very notion of a number greater than 11 baffled most folks) to the diary dispatches of the scene-stealing golem who takes Mack's place at home and in school ("Dear Mack, Did you know that you cannot eat cats? Each day I learn a little more")—should win over readers. Ages 10–up. (Aug.)