The Magic of Being a Middle Schooler: Zatanna and the House of Secrets

The Magic of Being a Middle Schooler: Zatanna and the House...

By Kelly Knox Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

You know Zatanna as the spell-slinging, backwards-speaking, top-hat-wearing star of the Justice League, but you’ve never seen her like this—a middle school student!

Inside the pages of the delightful Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, your own tweens and young teens will find a story that speaks to their own experiences. (Starting junior high is daunting even for a future superhero.) This original graphic novel tells a captivating tale of Zatanna and her father Zatara that will also delight comic fans who have loved the iconic DC characters for years. A book everyone will adore? It must be pure magic.

On a quiet street in a quiet town stands a remarkable house. You know, that house, the one everyone whispers about because something about it feels a little strange. But instead of dark shadows and cobwebs, inside this mysterious home you’ll find a plucky thirteen-year-old named Zatanna, her doting dad Zatara and their adorable pet rabbit, Pocus. It’s a house filled with love and light… Okay, and maybe a secret or two.

Zatara is a stage illusionist who goes by the name Zatara the Great, and when he’s not making magic for the residents of local retirement centers, he’s busy being an overprotective single dad to Zatanna. She’s still getting the hang of junior high, navigating new and old friendships as they grow and change. The last thing she needs are bizarre things happening to her, but when they do, will she be able to figure out what’s happening before things get even weirder?

Naturally, the young heroine seeks out her father to talk about what’s happening, but he seems to be hiding something from her. Suddenly Zatanna’s world is turned upside-down as she finds out magic is real, and she can cast spells by speaking backwards—but only if she means it. Worst of all, her actually magically-powered father might be in over his head when a dangerous witch and her son arrive to claim the House of Secrets for their own.

Oh, and it turns out her rabbit Pocus can talk.

Zatanna must find her missing father somewhere in their puzzling house, which has awakened from its slumber to reveal hidden rooms, magical beasts, endless staircases and much more. With her loyal animal spirit at her side, Zatanna uses her head and her heart to face whatever the House of Secrets can throw at her.

A supernatural house filled with creatures might sound scary, but thanks to Yoshitani’s luminous art, every page is enticing. This is a house any reader would want to explore, with lush décor and a feeling of true warmth thanks to the inviting and eye-catching colors in every panel. Cody’s gripping story conveys Zatanna’s urgency to find her father without being frightening for younger readers.

The graphic novel also doesn’t shy away from the actually overwhelming things about being a middle schooler, like making and keeping friends, staring down bullies and figuring out who you truly are.

Zatanna and the House of Secrets is a magical metaphor for middle school as Zatanna struggles with her friends changing, creating new relationships with her parents and staying true to herself. Even if you’re not a magician, starting middle school can feel like just as huge of a mystery to uncover and sometimes it seems as if the whole world you know is suddenly talking to you backwards. Who will you be? Who will your friends be?

Your own middle schooler might not live in a magic house, but when they pick up and read Zatanna’s adventure, they’ll certainly understand how it feels to wonder who you are and how you fit into the world as you grow up. Thanks to this original graphic novel, they’ll feel like they’re not alone, and they can be just as brave as one of DC’s most enchanting superheroes.

。・゚゚・ Daer siht koob! ・゚゚・。

Zatanna and the House of Secrets is now available in bookstores, comic shops and magical libraries everywhere. It's also available as a digital graphic novel.

Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and crafts.