Goodreads: 27 Magic Words
Five years ago Kobi’s parents were lost at sea, but when she uses one the twenty-seven words her mother gave her, the words that can do magic, she sees them living on a deserted island. And she knows that they’ll be home one day. But then her life is turned upside down. She and her sister have to leave her grandmother in Paris to live in Iowa with their uncle. And Kobi does not know how to be a regular kid. When she tries to convince the bullies to leave her alone, she starts to lie. But how long can she keep convincing them?
27 Magic Words is just as magical as the title suggests, blending reality and fantasy in a poignant novel about the power of stories. Kobi’s parents were lost at sea five years ago, but when she says the word Avanti! she can see them living on a deserted island. And she wills them to return home to her. But soon the stories she tells to give herself hope threaten her relationships with others.
Sharelle Byars Moranville combines the story of Kobi’s loss with her move to a new school, sensitively exploring the ways in which children can feel out of place in a different environment. Kobi and her sister have been living in Paris with their grandmother and a housekeeper, but now she must learn to live in Iowa. There her classmates find her Paris dresses funny and think she’s stuck-up. But Kobi doesn’t seem to know what to do to fix the situation, ignoring the friends who accept her as she is and instead trying to impress the bullies. It’s a perilous situation for one so young and the stakes seem incredibly high to Kobi.
27 Magic Words is a beautiful story, and one that could have benefited from some extra length so readers can learn more about the characters–all of whom are interesting and few of whom receive enough attention. From Kobi’s storytelling classmate to the artist who lives down the street, the book is peopled with fascinating characters. And readers should be able to spend more time with them. Even so, this is a charming book and I am surprised it has not received more attention.