Twelve-year old Eli is an apprentice librarian at the largest library in the word, and is content to remain so, though his magical powers have enabled him to bring daring hero Jeremiah Jones out of a book to be his friend, so he does get a bit of excitement occasionally. His parents had died during a Glorious Race of Magical Beasts some years ago, so he lives with his Nana, and helps her in her café, which is staffed by chocolate penguin waiters and serves utterly delicious desserts and soft drinks. The Race is coming up again, and a rude customer, evidently a racer, upsets Nana, and her loss of magic causes the chocolate penguins to run amok. Nana is normally able to cope, but finally admits that she is seriously ill. Eli realizes that he must enter the Race, and try to win the magical ruby that will cure Nana. His magical beast, though, is a moon tortoise, called Humphrey, a timid and unadventurous creature who is just looking forward to his 100th birthday, nothing like the Pegasi and dragons that some other racers have. He is befriended by daring Raven, a skilled archer, with her super-speedy ice hare, and she needs to win to save their magical forest. Eli and Raven work well as a team and triumph in various perilous situations and against the machinations of the rude racer, Vincent. Eli is resourceful, but also finds courage he did not know he had. Humphrey the tortoise often gets into difficulties, and they sometimes need the help of Jeremiah Jones and his magical ship, but as they approach the end of the race, they realise that winning means that one of them must lose….
A sub-plot involves the fact that, in taking Jeremiah Jones out of a book, Eli has prevented the author from writing a sequel, and that dilemma is very cleverly solved.
Alex Bell is the author of the excellent Polar Bear Explorers’ Club series, and this imaginary magical world is just as wonderful a place in which a young reader can be immersed. This former Librarian really loves the idea of being able to travel instantly from library to library, as long as Eli has the right key to the doors… Tim McDonagh’s heroic comicbook style is ideally suited, and The Glorious Race of Magical Beasts is indeed a glorious adventure!