More Than Magic by Kathryn Lasky is a middle grade novel that combines a Cinderlla style story with a touch of television and computer coding. Ryder Holmsby is the same age as Rory, the popular TV cartoon character her animator parents created. Ryder and Rory are alike—bold and brave! But Ryder is a bit lonely: Mom passed away a couple of years ago, and Dad is dating a woman with snooty teenage daughters. Ryder doesn’t fit in with them at all. And then: Shazam! Rory jumps out of the TV into Ryder’s bedroom to tell her that the TV studio behind her parents’ show is trying to turn Rory into a dopey princess, no more adventures. She needs Ryder’s help! The two girls team up with a crew of animated and real-life friends to save the day in both worlds
More Than Magic is an interesting take on the Cinderella tale. Ryder's mother was a force larger than life, full of energy and creativity. When she died Ryder and her father lost some of their spark, and her father has fallen prey to a scheming woman looking for fame and fortune for her family. Part of her plan is to change Rory from a brave adventurer that resembles Ryder to a princess that is older, curvy, and more like one of her daughters. Family crisis and changes combined with the fight against those changes has Ryder and her friends journeying between the real world, the television, and the computers that create and store the television show. A variety of characters and adventures keep things interesting, but while we get a reasonably deep look as some of the characters I really never felt fully connected to any of them. The all felt like part of a show rather than the book in my hands. I am not sure what did not click, but while I loved the idea of the story and where it was going I never felt fully engaged.
More Than Magic is a good adventure for those of us who always enjoyed the rough and tumble part of an adventure more than the princess being rescued from the tower and getting married. Readers with a deep love of TV magic and how animation is done will have an extra interest and understanding of some of the adventure Ryder, Rory, and their friends undertake.