I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Wizard of Rondo
This fantasy is a hardcover edition that was published by Scholastic on October 1, 2009 and has 352 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author include The Key to Rondo
Second in the Rondo fantasy series for middle-grade readers and revolving around a pair of cousins with the “ticket” of entry to an alternate world. It’s been a week since The Key to Rondo, 1.
In 2009, The Wizard of Rondo won Canberra’s Own Outstanding List Awards for Section 4: Fiction for grades 7–9, the Kids Own Australian Literature Awards for Fiction for Years 7–9, and in 2008, it won the Aurealis Award for Children’s Novel.
The Wizard of Rondo is a basic frame story with the reader being introduced to Mimi and Leo at home in their own world…and ending up back in it. In the meantime, it’s off to an alternate plane of existence, one created by the Artist, which serves as the story as object.
It’s a time of growth for Mimi, and man, does she need it! Her weaknesses do add tension to the plot. Of course, Leo has his own maturing to do in his character arc. And it’s a lovely bit of acknowledgment at the end with encouragement from their friends in Rondo, as both Mimi’s and Leo’s characters are transformed along their individual hero journeys.
I think the chickens are my favorite characters in this story, what with their names for the days of the week and their crazy personalities. Rodda drew a sweet parallel between Moult and Mimi that Leo draws from his perspective in third-person point-of-view.
There is quite a lot of movement in The Wizard of Rondo, what with Mimi’s duplicity and being such a know-it-all — lord knows there was enough foreshadowing with that big flashing arrow that resulted in a touch of the dread had-I-known plot beat. Then there’s Bertha’s tragedy, Bing’s disappearance, Simon’s arrest, Moult’s problems, the Hobnob villagers and Snug campers raising a hue and cry for Tye, the terror of the Strix, the sly plans of Sly the fox, and the Blue Queen’s plotting which all raise the tensions of the story until that deus ex machina at the end which was quite welcome, if too easy as well.
It’s cute. It’s fun. And it’s an easy story for kids to read.
Oh, no! The story got out, and while Bertha is famous throughout the land, the Blue Queen is furious. Fortunately, a more immediate quest arrives via a messenger mouse.
Mrs. Clogg requires a hero — now — to save her nephew. She’s adamant that he couldn’t possibly have killed the wizard.
And off our heroes go, confident they can handle a mystery as simple as this, until the STRIX shows up!!!
The responsible Leo Zifkak inherited a magical music box from Great-aunt Bethany Langlander. Tony Zifkak is his dad; Suzanne is his mother. Anna, Peter, Horst, and Will are friends of his parents. Uncle Henry was the staid practical one who died shortly after he retired. And went to Rondo. Wicked Uncle George was his brother who disappeared. Into Rondo where he’s known as Spoiler or Tom.
The prickly Mimi Langlander is Leo’s misfit of a cousin who is brilliant on the violin and inherited the Key from Great-aunt Bethany. Mutt is her dog.
”Spending time with Mimi Langlander is like doing a degree in psychology.”
…comes alive when the music box is wound. You must leave the lid open until the music winds down or life will continue in Rondo. It’s a world where your name frequently fits you and Posy is a flower seller; Officer Begood is quite officious; Old Jolly runs an inn and tavern, the Black Sheep; Merry works the bar; Scribble is the nosy gnome reporter from The Rondo Rambler who will make it up if he likes; Crumble sells pies; Pop is a balloon seller; Spoony’s Coffee Shop; Brown’s Chocolates; Winkle is a sleepy traveling salesman; Marjorie is a gossipy crow; and, Sly is the fox Macdonald got to keep the dots under control.
The friends they made in Rondo last time…
…include Conker “Conkie”, a dot-catcher, and his partner, Freda, a duck who loves to eat the remains. Bertha is quite the vain pig who works on Jack Macdonald’s farm as a watch pig. Or, she did. Princess Pretty (she’d been Jim’s foster sister, Suki, and the Blue Queen’s stepdaughter) had been one of the swans and has just celebrated her wedding; Polly and Jim live at Grandma’s house in the woods (they have custody of the flying carpet); and, Hal is Uncle Henry, the wizard of Rondo who saved the day, back in the day. Tye the Terlamaine is the only one of her kind left. Known as Tiger folk, they once lived in Tiger’s Glen which was part of the Old Forest.
Jack Macdonald owns a farm; his wife is Mistress Mary…do you think she may be contrary? Violet Orpington-Dunk is one of the leading hens at the farm. Other hens include Fiona and Eglantine. Mistress Merk, a.k.a., Misery, is one of the greedy owners of the Tavern of No Return. Not a place you want to visit. Peg owns a camping store; she also shifts into a bear at sunset.
…a town in Rondo. Muffy Clogg is good-hearted but a twit. Her husband, Mayor Clogg, owns Clogg’s Shoe Emporium which is doing very well, unhappily for Mr. Clogg. Simon Augustus Humble, Muffy Clogg’s nephew, has been arrested for murder. He’s also a mushroom. Yep, literally. Tilly is Muffy’s practical maid. (Tilly’s sisters are Gilly, Lily, and Milly and maids at Macdonald’s farm.)
Wizard Balthazar “Bats” Bing (he’ll get another nickname, “Bingle”) has a terrible reputation for never getting it quite right. Egbert, son of Egmont, is the Guardian of the Flock of Bing which includes the bossy Cluck, the tiny excitable Teeny, the beautiful Chickadee, a vacant Scramble, a depressed Broody, and the gold-egg-laying Moult.
Bodelia Parker is the nasty gossip who runs the antiques shop. Patricia was Bodelia’s parrot. Candy Sweet is quite obsessed with catching Officer Begood’s eye. Master Sadd always looks on the melancholy side of things…he is the gravedigger after all. Count Éclair owes money. Stitch is a tailor. Bun runs the bakery with his wife Patty and has employed Renée, the dot-catching fox. Sly is Renée’s brother.
The Hobnob Snug sounds delightful with sentient trees (including Mirth and Glee) who love having guests, so they grow cabins and provide the most amazing slumbers. I want that Snug pool! It does have a backward wishing well, so use care. Woodley is the annoying Snug caretaker, quite annoying, you know. Some of the other guests include a young girl named Skip whose parents have obviously not taught her to be careful!
The Blue Queen is the arch villainess. The Strix is the Ancient One and the first creation of the Artist’s brush. He’s also Rondo’s boogeyman, notorious for Collecting the unusual.
Wizard Wurzle lives in Flitter Wood and is shy and timid. Wizard Plum is doing fine, and isn’t missing. The dead wizards include Zargo, Nerklan, and Wanda the Wicked Witch of the West. The messenger mice are getting quite above themselves, causing all sorts of havoc. Dots are gingerbread men and quite the pests. The Key is the key to getting in and out of Rondo AND is capable of doing anything you can imagine. Safe Places, a distant relative of the hidey-hole, are just that. Safe places to put your things. But you do have to remember where that Safe Place is along with the password. A Gap is a Rondo shortcut. The Artist is the creator of Rondo. Sir Clankalot was a freeloading knight.
Takeshi Sato is a brilliant violinist who organized a week of workshops.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a gorgeous range of blue greens from the darkest green of the wizard’s hunter’s-wizard hat, the softer green velvet-like robe, his four-colored wand, and the bright green cloud palace in the purple and orange sunset, a village skyline behind him. The wizard himself is a fierce-looking man with hard-earned wrinkles and flowing gray locks, mustache, and beard, as he swings that wand. The title is an embossed Gothic swirl at the top in gold while the author’s name is at the bottom, also in an embossed gold.
The title could refer to several men, for each is a, er, The Wizard of Rondo.