HOOKED ON BOOKS: Books reveal schools for fantastic careers

Not all fantasy schools are about learning magic. Other options include princessness, world domination, overcoming phobias and superhero sidekickdom.


About this time last year, I shared some magical enrollment options for young (at heart) readers who didn’t get an owl from Hogwarts. Young adult fiction does offer witches and wizards a wide range of places to learn. But it also boasts many unusual schools for non-magical careers. The possibilities seem practically infinite.


“Pennyroyal Academy” by M.A. Larson

In a trilogy beginning with this book, fairy tale princesses train at a kind of boot camp to fight terrifying enemies – witches, dragons, and other monsters. It’s scary, funny and surprisingly enjoyable.



“Princess Academy” by Shannon Hale

For those who prefer a civilian route, the school in this book put girls from a remote village through a crash course in princessness. At the end of term, a royal prince will host a ball and choose his bride from among them – unless disaster strikes, forcing one girl to take lifesaving action. It’s romantic, perilous fun.


“School for Sidekicks” by Kelly McCullough

In a weird version of the Twin Cities, an apprentice program pairs metahuman kids with seasoned superheroes. Young Evan fights to persuade his has-been hero partner to try stopping bad guys. Their story teems with quirky gadgets, powers, wit and warmth.


Bonus: Another schoolboy apprenticed to a washed-up superhero figures in “Sidekicked” by John David Anderson.

“Munchem Academy” by Commander S.T. Bolivar III

This school specializes in straightening out juvenile delinquents. In the goofy first book of the series, “The Boy Who Knew Too Much,” it takes a group of young criminal geniuses to stop a scarily evil plot.


“Pilfer Academy” by Lauren Magaziner

Instead reforming naughty children, this insane school kidnaps bad kids and trains them to be crooks. When a boy named George decides he’s had enough, his only way to escape the school is to steal it. Too silly for its own good, this book at least made me laugh.

“Evil Genius” by Catherine Jinks

Cadel’s shrink has been grooming him for world domination since age 7. At 14, he matriculates to the Axis Institute, a school of villainy built around him. Meantime, he grows a conscience. From then on, Cadel and those he loves are in grave danger. It’s a smart, exciting book.



“The School of Fear” by Gitty Daneshvari

Pre-teens in this trilogy learn to face their phobias at a secret school run by a demented lady, using a ridiculous regimen of beauty tips, bad smells and sarcasm. The kids get on each other's nerves, but learn to work as a team. The series delivers non-stop laughs, as does the author’s spy kids series, “The League of Unexceptional Children.”

Honorable mentions

In Stanley Kiesel’s “The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids,” a student leads a rebellion against his school’s faculty. It’s over-the-top weird and funny, but a little uneven.

In “School Ship Tobermory” by Alexander McCall Smith, twins join a floating school and get caught up in a dangerous mystery.

“Tangerine” by Edward Bloor depicts a legally blind seventh grader who, ironically, sees better than most in a town where lightning strikes daily.

And though magic schools are “so last year,” I just have to mention Jim Butcher’s “Academ’s Fury” and Cinda Williams Chima’s “The Wizard Heir,” each featuring a school where students learn to wield amazing powers.

Robin Fish is an avid reader who blogs about books and other topics at Contact him with questions or suggestions at

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Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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