cover image The Key to Rondo

The Key to Rondo

Emily Rodda, . . Scholastic, $16.99 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-545-03535-4

At the start of Rodda's (the Deltora Quest series) proficient, old-fashioned fantasy, Leo's great-aunt Bethany has bequeathed him the Langlander family treasure: a music box with minutely painted details of a realm populated, as Leo discovers, by fairytale and nursery rhyme characters. Specific rules govern the music box, as all Bethany's relatives know, and dependable Leo plans to obey them strictly. But when his much-loathed cousin Mimi arrives for an extended stay, she seizes the first opportunity to break them. Suddenly figures on the box seem to have moved from their spots—and could it be that its butterflies now fly in Leo's room? Before long the children have summoned a sorceress, who lures them into Rondo by returning there with Mimi's dog in tow. This novel offers many elements characteristic of classic children's fantasy: an alternate world, a magical object that bridges worlds, two unsupervised child protagonists on a quest, tension about the protagonists' ability to get home again. Rodda's embellishments—the children find Langlander relatives in Rondo and discover that in Rondo their family history serves as fairytale—add some texture as well as originality. Ages 9-12. (Feb.)