So You Want to Be a Wizard: The First Book in the Young Wizards Series by Diane DuaneSo You Want to Be a Wizard: The First Book in the Young Wizards Series by Diane Duane

So You Want to Be a Wizard: The First Book in the Young Wizards Series

byDiane Duane

Paperback | June 30, 2001

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Something stopped Nita's hand as it ran along the bookshelf. She looked and
found that one of the books had a loose thread at the top of its spine. It was one of those So You Want to Be a . . . books, a series on careers. So You Want to Be a Pilot, and a Scientist . . . a Writer. But his one said, So You Want to Be a Wizard.
I don't belive this, Nina thought. She shut the book and stood there holding it in
her hand, confused, amazed, suspicious - and delighted. If it was a joke, it was a great one. If it wasn't . . . ?
DIANE DUANE is the author of nearly fifty science fiction and fantasy novels, including ten books in the Young Wizards series . Four of her Star Trek novels have been New York Times bestsellers, including Spock's World . She lives with her husband in rural Ireland. Visit her online at and
Title:So You Want to Be a Wizard: The First Book in the Young Wizards SeriesFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:400 pages, 6.87 × 4.19 × 0.99 inShipping dimensions:6.87 × 4.19 × 0.99 inPublished:June 30, 2001Publisher:Houghton Mifflin HarcourtLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:015216250X

ISBN - 13:9780152162504

Appropriate for ages: 10


Rated 4 out of 5 by from A different sort of wizardry Read this in middle school and adored it. I only recently discovered there's a new book out in the series, so I've gone back to look over them again. If you enjoy your magic with a nice helping of modernity and a pinch of science fiction, these are the wizards for you.
Date published: 2016-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I first read this at 12... And since I already had found my wizards & witches with HP, I didn't really feel like I could love two series equally. So after the second book I stopped reading, but randomly would pick it up. This is a comfort book, where as HP was a growing series. I've since started reading the following books and I find myself deeply invested in Nita & Kit - I can only hope that they grow into the mentoring I've since taken on myself.
Date published: 2016-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was the first book I read where the main character had real problems with her peers. I often wished I had a magic way to change my life, if only I had found that book when I was looking through the library at her age. At least I could live through Nita's adventures.
Date published: 2013-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read for young teens This whole series of books is really easy to get lost in. Duane creates a whole different kind of wizardry world that I found so intriguing to read about. I started this series in Grade 9 and fell in love an had to get the librarian buy the rest of them. The way the stories are written, it takes very little imagination to place yourself into the story and live vicariously through the characters and go on an adventure of your own. The story is also very accessible for everyone so no matter the type of books you like to read, it has something for everyone. Trust me, you will get hooked on this series!
Date published: 2008-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A really strong series This was a solid bit of children's literature, and the first in a series I'll be nibbling on from now. Basically Nita finds a book (or rather, it finds her), and the title is So You Want to be a Wizard, and sure enough, it's not a joke. Nita joins wizardry with a bit of a cavalier attitude, but quickly learns that the notion of Wizards as champions against entropy (or at least slowing down the wasting of the finite energies of the universe) is a lot more than getting bullies off her back and finding her favourite lost pen. This is a solid tale, and the inclusion of Kit, her new guy friend who is also a wizard in training, is a nice touch to balance out the genders for readers of any age. Fun, and light, but with some nasty villains, this will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, but I found it had a stronger bit of a morality tale included - wizards are to be forces for life in Duane's world, and that message is very constant.
Date published: 2008-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intelligent and thoughtful Diane Duane takes us into a realistic and facinating world where magic is a mission and a science as well as a choice. She explains it with such clarity that you instantly are entranced by it. The characters themselves are realistic, and as you read on in the series, they grow into real and intelligent people. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2007-09-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointed I bought this book knowing very little about it, but hoping for the best. I was disappointed right off the bat. It was really slow and most of the time very confusing! I didn't connect with either of the two main characters and the plot was just boring and unoriginal. I had actually purchased the first two books in the series and I don't think I will even bother with the second one. I would not recommend this book to anyone.
Date published: 2007-09-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good book, overall I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book when I picked it up, but I ended up quite liking both of the main characters, and although the writing seemed a bit slow sometimes, the action generally kept up at good clip. Not an amazing book, but the author definitely used her imagination and it makes for a good short read.
Date published: 2005-12-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from confusing, and poorly written This book has an interesting idea, which should produce an interesting and good book. However, the only reason I finnished this book was because there was nothing else for me to read. It had poorly developed characters and confusing situations. When an author introduces a different world to the reader one would expect a clear discription of the surroundings or at least what the characters are seeing as they go from one place to the other, however the author only provides a choppy, confusing, and limited description of the setting she has placed her characters. While it may have an interesting idea behind it, this book needed the wrinkles worked out better before others read it.
Date published: 2005-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent this book has kept me captivated since the first moment i opened its pages i started reading this series at 10 and have kept at it since HOPE YOU ENJOY IT
Date published: 2005-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Young Wizard Series I thought that this series was excellent. I read alot and it took me about a day tops to finish each book! I don't see how anyone could not like these books. They are all good reads, definatly better than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Definatly worth anyone's time.
Date published: 2003-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What A Catch!! (ALMOST) Though i am a fan the book is a little hard to follow. and it should have been longer! Long books are the best books.
Date published: 2003-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent I found the book excellent I have no idea where she got the great idea and for all the stuck on harry potter people who atomatically asume that Diane Duane is just copying of J.K. Rowling you're wrong Diane wrote this book before JK rowling had her first Harry Potter book out. Don't get me wrong i'm a huge Harry Potter fan though most everyone who wrote a review about this book before me isn't giving this series of books a chance someone said they threw it away in my opinion the book was excellent but make sure you read the whole first Book and be prepared for a totally awesome 2nd book.
Date published: 2003-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome! Although I know that not everyone has the same taste in literature as I do, I loved this book. I couldn't put it down, and after I read it I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book. As good or better as the Harry Potter books...I'm telling you, read this awesome book!!
Date published: 2002-03-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from don't even bother The book's not that bad. It starts out really great and funny, but half way through it gets really boring. I didn't even bother to finish reading it since it caused me a huge headache just to get through one page. I doubt that many people will enjoy it, not even Harry Potter fans.
Date published: 2001-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Book If you have read the Harry Potter Books, or if you havn't, it doesn't matter. This book is far better than any book I have ever read. And I have read a lot of books. Though it may seem long, it is so exciting you won't want to put it down. The author, Diane Duane, makes it sound so realistic and describes everything so well, you almost think it's real, and can picture everything that is going on. As they travel from our world to an evil world, this book, and all the others in the series, deserve a definate five star rating.
Date published: 2000-11-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Forget It After reading the 3 Harry Potter books, I saw Diane Duane's So You Want to Be a Wizard in a bookstore. The two main characters, Nita and kit both find a copy of a book called So You Want to Be a Wizard. They do all these complicated spells and then get thrown into the dark world. I would not recommend this book. I thought it was really boring and couldn't wait to put it down.
Date published: 2000-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book for ages 10+! If you or your kids liked the 3 Harry Potter books this book would be an excellent choice. The main character is Nita, 13, who happens upon a book in the library with an intriguing title..."So, You Want to be a Wizard". This book was a very satisfying read - and a quick read - since it was so hard to put down. Duane's other books also tend to be very entertaining.
Date published: 1999-12-10

Read from the Book

Preliminary ExercisesSHE DID HER CHORES that morning and got out of the house with the book as fast as she could, heading for one of her secret places in the woods. If weird things start happening, she thought, no one will see them there. Oh, I'm going to get that pen back! And then... Behind the high school around the corner from Nita's house was a large tract of undeveloped woodland, the usual Long Island combination of scrub oak, white pine, and sassafras. Nita detoured around the school, pausing to scramble over a couple of chain-link fences. There was a path on the other side; after a few minutes she turned off it to pick her way carefully through low underbrush and among fallen logs and tree stumps. Then there was a solid wall of clumped sassafras and twining wild blackberry bushes. It looked totally impassable, and the blackberries threatened Nita with their thorns, but she turned sideways and pushed through the wall of greenery undaunted. She emerged into a glade walled all around with blackberry and gooseberry and pine, sheltered by the overhanging branches of several trees. One, a large crabapple, stood near the edge of the glade, and there was a flattish half-buried boulder at the base of its trunk. Here she could be sure no one was watching. Nita sat down on the rock with a sigh, put her back up against the tree, and spent a few moments getting comfortable-then opened the book and started to read. She found herself not just reading, after a while, but studying-cramming the facts into her head with that particular mental stomp she used when she knew she was going to have to know something by heart. The things the book was telling her now were not vague and abstract, as the initial discussion of theory had been, but as straightforward as the repair manual for a new car, and nearly as complex. There were tables and lists of needed resources for working spells. There were formulas and equations and rules. There was a syllabary and pronunciation guide for the 418 symbols used in the wizardly Speech to describe relationships and effects that other human languages had no specific words for. The information went on and on-the book was printed small, and there seemed no end to the things Nita was going to have to know about. She read about the hierarchy of practicing wizards-her book listed only those practicing in the United States and Canada, though wizards were working everywhere in the world-and she scanned down the listing for the New York area, noticing the presence of Advisory Wizards, Area Supervisors, Senior Wizards. She read through a list of the "otherworlds" closest to her own, alternate earths where the capital of the United States was named Huictilopochtli or Lafayette City or Hrafnkell or New Washington, and where the people still called themselves Americans, though they didn't match Nita's ideas about the term. She learned the Horseman's Word, which gets the attention of any member of the genus Equus, even the zebras; and the two forms of the Mason's Word, which gives stone the appearance of life for short periods. One chapter told her about the magical creatures living in cities, whose presence even the nonwizardly people suspect sometimes-creatures like the steam-breathing fireworms, pack-ratty little lizards that creep through cracks in building walls to steal treasures and trash for their lair-hoards under the streets. Nita thought about all the steam she had seen coming up from manhole covers in Manhattan and smiled, for now she knew what was causing it. She read on, finding out how to bridle the Nightmare and learning what questions to ask the Transcendent Pig, should she meet him. She read about the Trees' Battle-who fought in it, who won it, and why. She read about the forty basic classes of spells and their subclasses. She read about Timeheart, the unreal and eternal realm where the places and things people remember affectionately are preserved as they remember them, forever. In the middle of the description of things preserved in their fullest beauty forever, and still growing, Nita found herself feeling a faint tingle of unease. She was also getting tired. She dropped the book in her lap with an annoyed sigh, for there was just too much to absorb at one sitting, and she had no clear idea of where to begin. "Crud," she said under her breath. "I thought I'd be able to make Joanne vanish by tomorrow morning." Nita picked the manual up again and leafed through it to the section labeled "Preliminary Exercises." The first one was set in a small block of type in the middle of an otherwise empty page.To change something, you must first describe it. To describe something, you must first see it. Hold still in one place for as long as it takes to see something. Nita felt puzzled and slightly annoyed. This didn't sound much like magic. But obediently she put the book down, settled herself more comfortably against the tree, folded her arms, and sighed. It's almost too warm to think about anything serious...What should I look at? That rock over there? Naah, it's kind of a dull-looking rock. That weed...look how its leaves go up around the stem in a spiral...Nita leaned her head back, stared up through the crabtree's branches. That rotten Joanne. Where would she have hidden that pen? I wonder. Maybe if I could sneak into her house somehow, maybe there's a spell for that...Have to do it after dark, I guess. Maybe I could do it tonight...Wish it didn't take so long to get dark this time of year. Nita looked at the sky where it showed between the leaves, a hot blue mosaic of light with here and there the fireflicker of sun showing through, shifting with the shift of leaves in the wind. There are kinds of patterns-the wind never goes through the same way twice, and there are patterns in the branches but they're never quite the same, either. And look at the changes in the brightness. The sky is the same but the leaves cover sometimes more and sometimes less...the patterns...the patterns, they...they... (They won't let you have a moment's rest,) the crabapple tree said irritably. Nita jumped, scraping her back against the trunk as she sat up straight. She had heard the tree quite plainly in some way that had nothing to do with spoken words. It was light patterns she had heard, and wind movements, leafrustle, fireflicker. (Finally paid attention, did you?) said the tree. (As if one of them isn't enough, messing up someone's fallen-leaf pattern that's been in progress for fifteen years, drawing circles all over the ground and messing up the matrices. Well? What's your excuse?) Nita sat there with her mouth open, looking up at the words the tree was making with cranky light and shadow. It works. It works! "Uh," she said, not knowing whether the tree could understand her, "I didn't draw any circles on your leaves-" (No, but that other one did,) the tree said. (Made circles and stars and diagrams all over Telerilarch's collage, doing some kind of power spell. You people don't have the proper respect for artwork. Okay, so we're amateurs,) it added, a touch of belligerence creeping into its voice. (So none of us has been here more than thirty years. Well, our work is still valid, and-) "Uh, listen, do you mean that there's a, uh, a wizard out here somewhere doing magic?" (What else?) the tree snapped. (And let me tell you, if you people don't-) "Where? Where is she?" (He,) the tree said. (In the middle of all those made-stone roads. I remember when those roads went in, and they took a pattern Kimber had been working on for eighty years and scraped it bare and poured that black rock over it. One of the most complex, most-) He? Nita thought, and her heart sank slightly. She had trouble talking to boys. "You mean across the freeway, in the middle of the interchange? That green place?" (Didn't you hear me? Are you deaf? Silly question. That other one must be deaf not to have heard Teleri yelling at him. And now I suppose you'll start scratching up the ground and invoking powers and ruining my collage. Well, let me tell you-) "I, uh-listen, I'll talk to you later," Nita said hurriedly. She got to her feet, brushed herself off, and started away through the woods at a trot. Another wizard? And my God, the trees- Their laughter at her amazement was all around her as she ran, the merriment of everything from foot-high weeds to hundred-foot oaks, rustling in the wind-grave chuckling of maples and alders, titters from groves of sapling sassafras, silly giggling in the raspberry bushes, a huge belly laugh from the oldest hollow ash tree before the freeway interchange. How could I never have heard them before! Nita stopped at the freeway's edge and made sure that there were no cars coming before she tried to cross. The interchange was a cloverleaf, and the circle formed by one of the off-ramps held a stand of the original pre-freeway trees within it, in a kind of sunken bowl. Nita dashed across the concrete and stood a moment, breathless, at the edge of the downslope, before starting down it slantwise. This was another of her secret places, a spot shaded and peaceful in summer and winter, both because of the pine trees that roofed in the hollow. But there was nothing peaceful about it today. Something was in the air, and the trees, irritated, were muttering among themselves. Even on a foot-thick cushion of pine needles, Nita's feet seemed to be making too much noise. She tried to walk softly and wished the trees wouldn't stare at her so. Where the slope bottomed out she stopped, looking around her nervously, and that was when she saw him. The boy was holding a stick in one hand and staring intently at the ground underneath a huge larch on one side of the grove. He was shorter than she was, and looked younger, and he also looked familiar somehow. Now who is that? she thought, feeling more nervous still. No one had ever been in one of her secret places when she came there. But the boy just kept frowning at the ground, as if it were a test paper and he was trying to scowl the right answer out of it. A very ordinary-looking kid, with straight black hair and a Hispanic look to his face, wearing a beat-up green windbreaker and jeans and sneakers, holding a willow wand of a type that Nita's book recommended for certain types of spelling. He let out what looked like a breath of irritation and put his hands on his hips. "Cojones," he muttered, shaking his head-and halfway through the shake, he caught sight of Nita. He looked surprised and embarrassed for a moment, then his face steadied down to a simple worried look. There he stood regarding Nita, and she realized with a shock that he wasn't going to yell at her, or chase her, or call her names, or run away himself. He was going to let her explain herself. Nita was amazed. It didn't seem quite normal. "Hi," she said. The boy looked at her uncertainly, as if trying to place her. "Hi." Nita wasn't sure quite where to begin. But the marks on the ground, and the willow wand, seemed to confirm that a power spell was in progress. "Uh," she said, "I, uh, I don't see the oak leaves. Or the string." The boy's dark eyes widened. "So that's how you got through!" "Through what?" "I put a binding spell around the edges of this place," he said. "I've tried this spell once or twice before, but people kept showing up just as I was getting busy, and I couldn't finish." Nita suddenly recognized him. "You're the one they were calling crazy last week." The boy's eyes narrowed again. He looked annoyed. "Uh, yeah. A couple of the eighth graders found me last Monday. They were shooting up the woods with BB guns, and there I was, working. And they couldn't figure out what I was doing, so at lunch the next day they said-" "I know what they said." It had been a badly rhymed song about the kid who played by himself in the woods, because no one else would play with him. She remembered feeling vaguely sorry for the kid, whoever he was; boys could be as bad as girls sometimes. "I thought I blew the binding, too," he said. "You surprised me." "Maybe you can't bind another wizard out," Nita said. That was it, she thought. If he's not one- "Uhh...I guess not." He paused. "I'm Kit," he said then. "Christopher, really, but I hate Christopher." "Nita," she said. "It's short for Juanita. I hate that, too. Listen-the trees are mad at you." Kit stared at her. "The trees?" "Uh, mostly this one." She looked up into the branches of the larch, which were trembling with more force than the wind could lend them. "See, the trees do-I don't know, it's artwork, sort of, with their fallen leaves-and you started doing your power schematic all over their work, and, uh-" "Trees?" Kit said. "Rocks I knew about; I talked to a rock last week-or it talked to me, actually-though it wasn't talking, really..." He looked up at the tree. "Well, hey, I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't know. I'll try to put things back the way I found them. But I might as well not have bothered with the spell," he said, looking again at Nita. "It got caught. It's not working. You know anything about this?" He gestured at the diagram he had drawn on the cleared ground, and Nita went to crouch down by it. The pattern was one she had seen in her book, a basic design of interlocking circles and woven parallelograms. There were symbols drawn inside the angles and outside the curves, some of them letters or words in the Roman alphabet, some of them the graceful characters of the wizardly Speech. "I just got my book yesterday," she said. "I doubt I'll be much help. What were you trying to get? The power part of it I can see." She glanced up and found Kit looking with somber interest at her black eye. "I'm getting tired of being beat up just because I have a Spanish accent," he said. "I was going to attract enough power to me so that the big kids would just leave me alone and not start anything. An 'aura,' the book called it. But the spell got stuck a couple of steps in, and when I checked the book it said that I was missing an element." He looked questioningly at Nita. "Maybe you're it?" "Uhh-" She shook her head. "I don't know. I was looking for a spell for something different. Someone beat me up and stole my best pen. It was a space pen, the kind the astronauts have, and it writes on anything, and I always took all my tests with it and I always pass when I use it, and I want it back." She stopped, then added, "And I guess I wouldn't mind if they didn't beat me up anymore, either." "We could make a finding spell and tie it into this one," Kit said. "Yeah? Well, we'd better put these needles back first." "Yeah." Kit stuck the willow wand in his back pocket as he and Nita worked to push the larch's needles back over the cleared ground. "Where'd you get your book?" Nita said. "In the city, about a month ago. My mother and father went out antique hunting. There's this one part of Second Avenue where all the little shops are-and one place had this box of secondhand books, and I stopped to look at them because I always look at old books-and this one caught my eye. My hand, actually. I was going after a Tom Swift book underneath it and it pinched me..." Nita chuckled. "Mine snagged me in the library," she said. "I don't know...I didn't want Joanne-she's the one who beat me up-I didn't want her to get my pen, but I'm glad she didn't get this." She pulled her copy of the book out of her jacket as Kit straightened up beside her. She looked over at him. "Does it work?" she demanded. "Does it really work?" Kit stood there for a moment, looking at the replaced needles. "I fixed my dog's nose," he said. "A wasp stung him and I made it go down right away. And I talked to the rock." He looked up at Nita again. "C'mon," he said. "There's a place in the middle where the ground is bare. Let's see what happens." Together they walked to the center of the hollow, where the pine trees made a circle open to the sky and the ground was bare dirt. Kit pulled out his willow wand and began drawing the diagram again. "This one I know by heart," he said. "I've started it so many times. Well, this time for sure." He got his book out of his back pocket and consulted it, beginning to write symbols into the diagram. "Would you look and see if there's anything else we need for a finding spell?" "Sure." Nita found the necessary section in the index of her book and checked it. "Just an image of the thing to be found," she said. "I have to make it while you're spelling. Kit, do you know why this works? Leaves, pieces of string, designs on the ground. It doesn't make sense." Kit kept drawing. "There's a chapter on advanced theory in there, but I couldn't get through it all the way. The magic is supposed to have something to do with interrupting space-" "Huh?" "Listen, that's all I could get out of it. There was this one phrase that kept turning up, 'temporospatial claudication.' I think that's how you say it. It's something like, space isn't really empty, it folds around objects-or words-and if you put the right things in the right place and do the right things with them, and say the right things in the Speech, magic happens. Where's the string?" "This one with all the knots in it?" Nita reached down and picked it up. "Must have fallen out of my pocket. Stand on this end, okay?" He dropped one end of the string into the middle of the diagram, and Nita stepped onto it. Kit walked around her and the diagram with it, using the end of the string to trace a circle. Just before he came to the place where he had started, he used the willow wand to make a sort of figure-eight mark-a "wizards' knot," the book had called it-and closed the circle with it. Kit tugged at the string as he stood up. Nita let it go, and Kit coiled it and put it away. "You've got to do this part yourself," Kit said. "I can't write your name for you-each person in a spelling does their own. There's a table in there with all the symbols in it." Nita scuffed some pages aside and found it, a long list of English letters and numbers, and symbols in the Speech. She got down to look at Kit's name, so that she could see how to write hers, and group by group began to puzzle the symbols out. "Your birthday's August twenty-fifth?" "Uh-huh." Nita looked at the symbol for the year. "They skipped you a couple grades, huh?" "Yeah. It's rotten," Kit said, sounding entirely too cheerful as he said it. Nita knew that tone of voice-it was the one in which she usually answered Joanne, while trying to hide her own fear of what was sure to happen next. "It wouldn't be so bad if they were my age," Kit went on, looking over Nita's shoulder and speaking absently. "But they keep saying things like, 'If you're so smart, 'ow come you talk so fonny?'" His imitation of their imitation of his accent was precise and bitter. "They make me sick. Trouble is, they outweigh me." Nita nodded and started to draw her name on the ground, using the substitutions and symbols that appeared in her manual. Some of them were simple and brief; some of them were almost more complex than she believed possible, crazy amalgams of curls and twists and angles like those an insane stenographer might produce. She did her best to reproduce them, and tied all the symbols together, fastening them into a circle with the same wizards' knot that Kit had used on the outer circle and on his own name.Copyright © 1983 by Diane DuaneAfterword copyright © 2003 by Diane DuaneAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.