________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 19 . . . . May 23, 2003


Wizards: An Amazing Journey Through the Last Great Age of Magic.

Candace Savage.
Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 2003.
80 pp., cloth, $22.95.
ISBN 1-55054-943-X.

Subject Headings:
Magic-History-Juvenile literature.
Wizards-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Tom Chambers.

**** /4


Magical plants were not the only ingredients that apothecaries like Mr. Clark stored on their shelves. They also stocked bits and pieces of various animals, including ants' eggs, boars' teeth, crabs' eyes, donkeys' hooves, powdered worms, fish bones, goats' dung, dried serpents, jellied vipers and scorpions simmered in oil. Again, every preparation was believed to have its own specific magical powers. For example, frogs were caught, killed, cut up, dried and pounded into a powder, which was used to treat nosebleeds. Two different kinds of millipedes were also kept on hand: one sort was fat and bluish black; the other was brown and flat with a wicked looking forked tail. These insects were made into a powder or cooked into syrups and jams. But they were also fed live and wriggling to people who had asthma, at a rate of fifty millipedes per dose, four doses in twenty four hours.

The subject matter of Wizards is magic. While this content will be of great interest to young readers (witness the success of the Harry Potter books), it will also appeal strongly to parents who enjoy reading to their children. Their children, in turn, will be fascinated both by the written word and the many illustrations. It is a book they will return to again and again.

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     Author, Candace Savage, has written five books for children as well as 15 for older readers. In Wizards, she writes in an informative way about wizards, alchemy, divination, astrology, and magic. Readers learn a lot about these topics. There is also a chapter on Isaac Newton, best known for his studies in physics and mathematics, but who, in his early years, practised alchemy. Wizards is well researched, scholarly and very interesting and could be used both as classroom support and recreational reading. It has a useful glossary, a list of other readings, an index and notes on sources.

     The text of Wizards could stand on its own. What make it almost irresistible are the numerous illustrations in both black and white and colour which are spread throughout the book. They are wonderful and make Wizards into a source of fun and entertainment. Spiders and assorted bugs, for example, appear in the most unusual places. So, too, do demons, witches and other peculiar creatures. Some are very strange indeed. These illustrations help to show just how superstitious western society was for so many centuries. A number are from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and indicate that, while Europeans were a religious people, religion did not have answers to all of their questions. If, for example, a scientist such as Isaac Newton, who is considered one of the greatest thinkers of all time, spent a large part of his life believing in wizardry and alchemy, one can imagine the feelings of the less well educated and more gullible of the population. These beliefs were only seriously challenged with the coming of the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. The popularity of Harry Potter seems to indicate that an interest in some of these superstitions remains.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers is a retired college teacher who lives in North Bay, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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