By Emily Rodda
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
In this fast-moving fantasy, sensible Leo is less than pleased to find his dour cousin Mimi and her dog Mutt are coming to stay for a month. When Mimi challenges Leo to wind up the old music box he inherited more than the proscribed 3 times, magical things start to happen. The pictures painted on the music box come to life in Leo's room and then the Blue Queen appears. She tries to get Mimi to go with her, but when that fails, the Queen snatches Mutt instead and disppears into the box. There is nothing for it but to begin a quest to rescue Mutt, and Leo reluctantly tags along with Mimi into the fairy tale like world, where animals talk, gingerbread men are pests, and hidey-holes appear out of nowhere. Mimi and Leo meet both friends and enemies along the way to find the Blue Queen, and struggle with whom to trust and what to believe. Both cousins gain in confidence and understanding about themselves as they continue their dangerous quest. Will Mutt get rescued? Will Mimi and Leo find their way back home? Fantasy fans will be well pleased with this entertaining read, which doles out plenty of twists in the plot and neatly ties up the loose ends, with the possibility of sequels left open (it is projected to become a new series). You may also want to read some of Rodda's other books, like the Rowan of Rin series or the Deltora series.