Book review

Otto and the Flying Twins by Charlotte Haptie (2002)

If you like magic stories, I think you'll love this one about Otto and his twin sisters, Zeborah and Hepzibah.

There's trouble brewing in the mysterious and magical City of Trees. It's to do with the difference between the Karmidee people and the 'Normals'. I wonder which you would rather be? If you are a Karmidee, you might have a rare magical gift. You could be a mat-flyer, or a shape-changer, or you might have lamp-eyes. But although your people built the City of Trees a very long time ago, you would not actually live in it now. The City is occupied by the 'Normals' and you have to be very respectable to live in the City. If you are a 'magico' you are probably rather poor, and you might live out on the mud flats somewhere, on the edge of the City.

Otto lives in Parry Street, so he's alright. He's very respectable. But it isn't very nice living in a city that is being torn apart from the inside. The Minister for Modernisation, Councillor Elfina Crink, is oppressing the Karmidee. The Normal Police are everywhere. It's a good job they don't follow Otto home:

Hepzibah was in the playpen holding on to the rail. He sat next to her and she grinned and then she simply lifted one leg and then the other into the air behind her, like a swimmer holding on to the side of a swimming pool.
She kicked gently, giggling.
'Mum,' said Otto, not very clearly because something had happened to his voice.
Sounds of washing from the kitchen.
'What is it?' Dolores shouted back.
Hepzibah pulled one hand free.
Otto clung on tight to the other. She felt like a kite, or one of those balloons that float to the ceiling when you get them home.
'Hepzie's flying,' he said.

Hmmm. Seems pretty magico to me. The thing is, the Normals have lived in the City of Trees for so long that they don't really know what is normal any more, and what isn't. And some magicos opt for the quiet life, and settle down into respectability, forgetting their Karmidee origins. They are called sleepers. As you will see, that is actually what Otto's father did when he was a young man. Oh yes, and maybe Otto's mother isn't quite as respectable as she always thought she was ...

The Karmidee have got a lot to do. They need to find their King, who will save them from calamity. They will know him when they see him, because he has a birthmark. He's a sleeper somewhere in the city ...

I think you will absolutely love the magic in Otto's city and Otto's family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

This is Charlotte Haptie's first book. I think it is brilliant, and I hope she writes some more for us.

Otto lives in such a lovely world, and is so sage, he reminds me rather of Hazel Green. You could have a look at these books by Odo Hirsch:

If it is the magic which you really enjoy reading, obviously you should enjoy J K Rowling's Harry Potter, if there are any left that you still haven't read:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If you really enjoy the completely different world that Otto inhabits, I think you might like to look at the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell:

One final suggestion. You could have a look at The Wind on Fire Trilogy by William Nicholson:

OK. that wasn't my last suggestion. This is. If you really like magic, have a quick look at this one by Peter Dickinson:

For a more thoughtful follow up, this book actually reminds me very strongly of one I have recently read by Irene N Watts, about the way Germany fell apart from the inside out, just before the Second World War. It is about a young Jewish girl and her German friend:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Otto and the Flying Twins features in these lists: