Even and Odd are pre-teen sisters living in Stony Haven, Connecticut, where their parents operate a border shop carrying “supplies for the mundane world, as well as imports from the magic world — anything a magical customer might need for their visit here.” Those imports and magically-inclined customers come from the land of Firoth, where Even and Odd were born, and which is accessible via magic portals. The sisters trade off magical abilities on alternating days, leading to their nicknames, though each girl has different opinions on their access to magic: Even, more than anything in the world, wants to become an Academy of Magic-certified hero, while Odd wants to focus on her volunteer work at the local animal rescue center and pretend that she’s completely mundane (unless the opportunity arises to transform Even into a talking skunk, at which point all bets are off).
Much to everyone’s surprise, magical portals begin closing, trapping travelers on whichever side they were currently visiting. Even and Odd, along with a young unicorn named Jeremy who came to their shop to buy soda and booster packs of cards for his favorite game, manage to make their way back into Firoth, where they discover that entire biomes and their residents have been displaced, non-magical entities have unprecedented access to magically-imbued items, and a powerful wizard holds the key to everything that’s gone awry if she can only be made to care about the disastrous results of her work.
Restoring Firoth to its normal state and reopening the gateways is a hefty task for such young and inexperienced adventurers, but the trio might be the only ones who can accomplish it.
Sarah Beth Durst’s latest children’s book is well-written and action-packed, and young readers will find lots to giggle over (unicorns poop different flavors of cupcakes, and Even spends nearly the entire adventure stuck in the form of a skunk, leading to plenty of opportunities for malodorous mayhem). The relationship between the two sisters is competitive and lively, their friendship with Jeremy is charming, and I loved the creative ways in which they each approached various challenges.
Meanwhile, Even and Odd (2021) contains poignant and timely commentary on forced resettlement, refugees, resource disparities, and family separation. Durst handles these topics sensitively, in ways that are fully accessible to her target audience and that are likely to prompt thoughtful discussions even among adult readers. Highly recommended.