A Tuesday Ten: Birthday Beginnings

It’s my son’s fifth birthday today, so what more appropriate list topic than birthdays?  Specifically, we’re talking birthdays that launch a story those days that can mean the seizing of a birthright, a critical test, or a mysterious gift. 


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling (Scholastic, c1997)

We’ll kick off the list with one you’re sure to know!  Our hero Harry has his adventures begin on his eleventh birthday.  That is the day that Hagrid delivers him his formal acceptance letter to Hogwarts and reveals the boy’s true identity.  Throughout the Harry Potter series Harry’s birthdays are mentioned regularly, but this first one is part of the magic that sparks the amazing story that follows!  How many readers hoped their eleventh birthdays would lead to that magical invite?


The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (Margaret K. McElderry, c1973)

Apparently, eleven is a popular birthday for magical adventure initiations.  On his eleventh birthday,  Will Stanton is charged with finding six Sign symbols and battle the evil forces rising in the land.  Like Harry, Will is going to learn the truth of his own heritage, but it will lead him into a much darker and more elemental battle against evil in  The Dark is Rising sequence.


11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (Scholastic, 2009)

In this story, the birthday is the magic.  Best friends Amanda and Leo have shared ever birthday since they were born. But this year, they are ex-best friends, and it’s the first year Amanda faces celebrating her party without him.  The day is awful and she’s grateful when it’s over and she can move on.  Except she can’t.  Her birthday keeps repeating and nothing will change until she can find a way to fix things with Leo.


Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012)

Every person in Keara’s world is bonded with a darkbeast.  A creature that takes all their faults and flaws throughout the first twelve years of their life.  But on their twelfth birthday, a child is expected to kill their darkbeast in order to become a recognized adult.  It’s Keara’s birthday  when the story opens.  But despite what the religious laws say, she just can’t kill her beloved darkbeast and friend.  Instead she goes on the run, trying to find somewhere safe from the pursuing Inquisitors.  Keara’s story continues in  Darkbeast Rebellion (September 2013).


Savvy by Ingrid Law (Puffin, 2007)

For generations in the Beaumont family, children are struck with a magical gift on their thirteenth birthday.  Now it’s finally Mib’s big day and she wonders what wonderous power she’ll get.  This Newbery Honor is a charming exploration of how every person holds unexpected secrets and sometimes it’s the smallest magics that can make the biggest difference.  The magical discoveries of the Beaumont family continue in Scumble (Dial, 2010).


Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway (Bloomsbury, 2012)

In Abby’s world, when a person turns twelve they get tested for magic and ranked according to their ability.  Abby is looking forward to the test and the chance to work magic herself.  Until the test reveals she has no magic at all.  In the midst of a society where everyone has magic, Abby is one of the rare and freakish “ords”–people with no magic at all.  This birthday test winds up not being a welcome one for Abby and changes her life in ways she could hardly imagine.  But she’s determined that magic or no, she’s not going to let anything hold her back!


The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo (Orchard Books, c1987)

Gifts are a natural part of birthdays. On Gwyn’s 9th birthday, his grandmother reveals his magical heritage and gives him five strange gifts to help him on his journey to becoming a magician: -a brooch, a piece of dried seaweed, a tin whistle, a scarf, and a broken toy horse.  When Gwyn throws the brooch into the wind, he receives a silvery snow spider.  This spider may be able to help him connect with his missing sister, Bethan, but can he figure out how to bring her home?  Gwyn’s story continues in Emlyn’s Moon (1989), and  The Chestnut Soldier (1989).


Ring of Fire by P. D. Baccalario (Random House, 2009)

While the story doesn’t begin with a birthday celebration, this globe-trotting fantasy and mystery solving adventure begins when four kids inadvertently find themselves all booked for the same room in a hotel in Rome.  What seems an odd error becomes something more bizarre and significant when all four kids realize they share the same birthday: February 29th.  It seems they have been brought together on purpose, and all four will partake in a wild adventure of searching out clues and racing against the villains to obtain a device that could be lethal in the wrong hands . . . the first book in the Century series.


The Cloak Society by Jeramey Kraatz (HarperCollins, 2012)

For Alex’s 12th birthday, he and his friends are assigned a mission to rob a bank.   After all, he’s a super villain in training, being raised by an entire villain community.  It’s his big day . . . and he flubs it.  His telekinesis isn’t working properly and instead of fighting the good guys, he saves the life of one of the junior heroes.  Now Alex finds himself questioning his own commitment to the goals of the cloak society–is he really cut out to be a super villain? Alex’s adventures continue in The Cloak Society: Villains Rising (2013).


The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (Bantam, c1980)

A plastic Indian toy for his birthday doesn’t seem like much of a gift to Omri.  Until he sticks the figure into an old cupboard and turns the key . . . and brings the Indian to life.  It’s the start of some extraordinary magic and very special friendship!  Follow Omri through the entire Indian in the Cupboard series.  Sometimes the simplest birthday gifts can be the best magic.

So there’s my list!  What are your favorite books with birthdays?  Comments welcome!

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on November 20, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. That’s funny, I recently wrote about Harry Potter and used the exact same image. Not a crazy coincidence, I suppose, since the books are so popular. Two things about the series really stand out to me. One is the fact that the books grow up with the reader in everything from writing style to character and plot development. The other is just the humanity of the characters themselves.

  2. luciwidnesor48@gmail.com

    I found some similarities between Savvy and Ordinary Magic but liked OM a lot more. Maybe because of the subtle “message” about what it means to be left out or the one who isn’t special and maybe because I saw a news interview about that poor 12 year old girl who was bullied and committed suicide. Sometimes I think if kids would be better off if they spent more time with characters like Abigail Hale or even Anne Shirley (Green Gables) who triumph even when they are not pretty or special and less time on Facebook and iPhones. I know as an “ugly duckling”, I got a lot of moral support from Anne of Green Gables growing up.
    Happy birthday to your boy!!!

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