Mara and the Magic Sketchbook

Children - Fantasy/Sci-Fi
256 Pages
Reviewed on 12/26/2020
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Author Biography

JP Goorjian has always loved storytelling. Throughout his life, he's participated in theater, filmmaking, writing for magazines, and has been a student of philosophy. Always interested in the long conversation that explores depth of concept, he can be found at the coffee shops of Sonoma County engaged in friendly discussion or working on his writing. He loves our planet deeply and is an avid explorer and hiker who takes his time to discover the world in new ways. He follows the Golden Rule and seeks to practice its varied aspects each and every moment. He loves animals and his fellow man and believes in a beautiful future for us all.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Mara and the Magic Sketchbook is a work of fiction in the fantasy, science fiction, action, and adventure sub-genres, and was penned by author J. P. Goorjian. Written primarily for the middle-grade readership, but also suitable for the young at heart, we follow the intrepid heroine Mara as she tries to undo the chaos of her aunt’s wish to cram all of human history into a single house using magic. So begins an imaginative and highly enjoyable crossover adventure as we see a young lady discover her talents and grow into her strengths to make friends, foes, peace, and creativity and ultimately save the day.

Author J. P. Goorjian has crafted a fantastic middle-grade novel that fantasy adventure fans will be certain to fall in love with from its very opening pages. One of the things which particularly impressed me about the work was the commitment to vivid settings and memorable characters, which brings the tale to life in a cinematic fashion. Thanks to bold use of descriptive language, spritely dialogue, and a constant sense of action, this tale carries an exciting level of adventure and atmosphere from chapter to chapter, from each daring situation to an amazing conclusion. Add to this the loveable Mara as the central heroine and her amazing skills, and you have a stunning world that young readers will want to dive into again and again. Overall, I would highly recommend Mara and the Magic Sketchbook for young independent readers, schools, and social groups alike.

Liz Konkel

Mara and the Magic Sketchbook by JP Goorjian is a tale from The House of the Human. Mara loves to draw and create, even if this takes her out of class into her own daydreams and causes her classmates to call her “Miss Scribbles”. A nickname she detests but she doesn't let the words of others destroy the liveliness of her imagination or dampen her curiosity to learn about everything, past, and present. Her aunt's unusual house is filled with extraordinary things and is where history comes to life with an amazing assortment of characters that Mara encounters. But Mara has a problem. She can't find her aunt and Mara's the only one who can find the key that can save her. It all comes down to Mara's sketchbook, which she discovers has a secret of its own, and could give her the power she needs to be a hero and stop the greedy Lady Banks from her diabolical plan.

JP Goorjian brings the imagination to life in this lovely mingling of history, magic, and learning which feels like stepping into a wonderland of intellect, curiosity, and discovery. Imagination is alive all around Mara and her curious mind allows her to be swept into this world her aunt has formed. Her aunt is the catalyst for Mara's imagination as she's a larger than life personality that fills a house full of amazing aspects of human history that includes kingdoms, cavemen, and dinosaurs. Metaphors are woven into the various historical elements with so much said through creative ways such as a daring rescue from the I-solation Room, a play on health embracing disease, and facing off against bullies. Each part of the house feels like its own adventure with each making up the larger discovery that Mara undergoes to discover her own power.

At the root of the story is the encouragement for children to see the wonder in learning, the joy in discovery, and the amazing ways they can broaden their own imaginations through curiosity just like Mara does. Mara encounters a variety of characters throughout such as Doctor Zhao, the Rex brothers, a caveman named Kreak, Sarah, giant humans Carl and Chawz, Tepe, and the villainous Lady Banks. Goorjian creates an original and unique world that blends reality and imagination with layers of history, philosophy, friendship, bullying, fear, and courage. A great read for children that will push them to expand their imaginations, Mara and the Magic Sketchbook is a compelling, original, creative, and magical story that weaves imagination, discovery, history, and the encouragement to foster love and curiosity.

Tiffany Ferrell

Mara is a sixth-grader who loves to draw in her sketchpad that her favorite aunt had given to her. During her history class, a messenger pigeon comes to her with a note from her aunt, asking for her help. Wasting no time, Mara follows the bird deep into an unknown area where she meets a girl named Sarah and a caveman named Kreak. They tell Mara that her aunt has been kidnapped and they need her help in rescuing her. Mara isn’t so sure that she is the right person for the task, but then she discovers that anything she draws on the magical sketchpad becomes a reality. Armed with this secret weapon, she sets off to confront the person who took her beloved aunt. Lady Banks is a mean and cruel person who seeks the key to unlocking the door to the future, so it’s up to Mara and her friends to find this key and save her aunt. Will she find the tool she needs to free her aunt before the bad guys do, or will Mara and her friends be too late?

I thought Mara and the Magic Sketchbook was a fun and entertaining read. It’s fast-paced with the adventure beginning as soon as the book starts. Mara is a very likable character that children could relate to. I loved the idea of the sketchpad that brings everything you draw to life or existence. The people that help Mara along the way are interesting and very diverse. From cavemen to doctors, the characters are each unique in their own ways. Lady Banks, who is the nemesis of this story, is a great villain that you can’t help but dislike and you find yourself on the edge of your seat hoping that Mara rescues her aunt and prevents this evil woman from unlocking the door to the future. Overall, John-Paul Goorjian has written an amazing reality meets fantasy story that people of all ages can appreciate and enjoy. I look forward to seeing more of the author's work.