Skip to Main Content

About The Book

Magic and mystery abound when a young girl discovers a secret, parallel New York City that may help her find her missing brother in this dazzling middle grade fantasy adventure for fans of Thirteen Witches and James Riley.

Could lessons in magic make everything right again?

Nell Batista has been in trouble one too many times. Now she’s down to her last chance—literally. Join the Last Chance Club or be expelled from school. The kids in the club are an odd group, but when their teacher starts giving lessons in magic, things quickly go completely off the weird scale. Nell doesn’t believe in it at first; after all, she’s a smart city kid, and there has been nothing magical in her life since her brother, River, disappeared three years ago.

But this magic is real—and powerful. As their skills grow, Nell and her new friends discover a parallel New York City called the Nigh. It’s a place as delightful as it is scary, sizzling with magical energy, where statues can talk, magicians ride on giant dogs, and monsters roam Central Park. And it is all controlled by the terrifying Minister, who might hold the key to finding Nell’s missing brother. Just how far will Nell go to find him, and who can she trust in a world topsy turvy with enchantment?

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Room 101 1 Room 101
The whole thing was totally humiliating, starting with the room. Room 101. The kindergarten classroom at Bright Future Academy.

There were three of us, each awkwardly squeezed into the tiny, nubbly plastic chairs. Up in the front, there was Annika, the girl who looked like she had been blessed by a dozen fairies at birth. You know the type. She had tipped her chair backward at an alarming angle so that the ends of her long hair, the color of polished mahogany, hovered inches above the floor. Crossing her long legs on the edge of the desk, she aggressively cracked pumpkin seeds between her teeth.

Behind her, hulking in the corner, dressed in a paint-splattered black shirt and black jeans, was Crud. He was a huge kid with wild dark hair and a jaw like two fists on either side of his face. There were all sorts of rumors about him. People said that he had been kicked out of his last school for trying to strangle his science teacher. And that he ate kittens. Each time he shifted his weight, his chair squealed in pain.

Then of course there was me. Nell.

I stole a glance at Annika, who noticed and returned the stare with her cat-green eyes. She slipped another pumpkin seed between her perfect teeth and cracked it in half.

Sighing, I looked away.

Of all people, why did Annika have to be in this club?

I checked the clock on the wall. Its hands were blue oars held by tiny sailors in a red boat that was painted at the clock’s center.

3:40.

This thing was supposed to have started ten minutes ago.

“This is the worst,” I whispered to the white ferret in a cage on a little table.

Someone had put purple doll-sized pants on the ferret. Probably one of the kids in the class. On the back of the pants was red-glitter script saying Sassy Pants.

“Your pants are also the worst,” I told the ferret. It stared at me with a peevish look on its face. Then it turned its back, giving me a full view of its sassy pants, before disappearing into a paper-towel roll.

The classroom door swung open, and we all turned to watch The Viking burst in. He was new at the school, newer even than me. An eighth grader, like Annika and Crud—a year older than I was. He had a name, of course, but I didn’t know it. In my head I’d always called him The Viking. Not because he was a big muscly kid or anything. I mean, he was tall, but on the thin side. I called him The Viking because he always wore a Viking hat to school. Not the kind with the horns. Real Vikings didn’t wear those, anyway. His was a green cap with brown fur around its rim. He had egg yolk–colored hair that hung down to his shoulders, and his eyes were a pale blue with pinched pupils that looked as though he had been staring out to sea too long.

A red Twizzler was sticking out of his mouth. He removed it and asked, “Is this detention?”

Annika had been watching him with undisguised interest. Now she replied in her raspy voice, “It’s called the Last Chance Club.” She rolled her eyes at the name. “You know… they make you do community service work instead of being expelled. So you’ll become a better human being. Supposably.”

“Supposedly,” I muttered.

The Viking popped the Twizzler back into his mouth and sat down at the chair nearest him. He looked around the classroom, his eyes lingering on Annika.

Shocker, I thought.

His gaze moved to Crud, his eyebrows lifting at the sight of such a monster, then to me. I glanced away, but the next moment I heard his chair scraping against the floor as he dragged it next to mine.

He sat there for a moment in silence while I pretended he didn’t exist.

“So what’s your story?” he asked.

I glanced at him. He was watching me—I mean, really studying me, which hardly anyone ever does, except my father. It was very annoying.

“I don’t have a story.”

“Yes, you do,” he said. “And you know what else?”

I hesitated, then said, “What else?” I tried to make my voice sound bored. But to be honest, I was very curious. Because the thing is, I do have a story. Annika knew my story—or part of it, anyway. Up until now, I had thought that she hadn’t told anyone at school, but maybe I was wrong.

“I bet your story is a doozy, that’s what,” The Viking said. “So let’s hear it.”

I felt a strange mix of relief that he didn’t actually know my story, but also irritation that he wasn’t wrong. It was a doozy.

He leaned in close to me, waiting. In my peripheral vision, I could see Annika watching us. I heard the hard crack of another pumpkin seed.

I forced myself to look at him directly, to focus on the tiny white spot of light reflected in his pupils. It’s what Kingsley taught me to do when an opponent accuses me of cheating.

“Go away,” I told him.

He started to say something else, but to my relief the door opened again, and a tall, square-faced man stormed in.

About The Author

Photo courtesy of the author

Ellen Potter is the author of more than twenty award-winning novels for children and young adults, including Olivia Kidney, Slob, the Big Foot and Little Foot series, the Piper Green and The Fairy Tree series, The Humming RoomPish Posh, and The Kneebone Boy. Several of her books have been chosen by the New York Public Library for their Best 100 Books for Children list and have appeared on numerous state reading lists. Her nonfiction writing book, Spilling Ink, A Young Writer’s Handbook, coauthored with Anne Mazer, was also chosen by the New York Public Library as a Best 100 Books for Children. Ellen lives in upstate New York with her family. For more information about Ellen and her books, visit EllenPotter.com.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (October 18, 2022)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665910385
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

A New York City seventh grader at Bright Futures Academy, Nell Batista faces detention with eighth graders Annika, “Crud,” and Tom. Annika has brown hair and green eyes; Crud has dark hair; Tom has yellow hair and blue eyes. They are startled when their detention monitor, Mr. Boot, announces he is there to teach them magic using chopsticks. That day, each of them is permitted to wish for something lost, and Nell chooses her missing brother, River, who disappeared three years ago from Washington Square Park. Nell’s life becomes a dizzying mix of magic classes, everyday problems with friends and family, and eventually, a journey to the Nigh—a parallel realm where magical beings dwell. Nell returns to Hither (her world) but suspects her brother River was brought to Nigh, and makes another expedition there with her friends. This is a whimsical, ambitious story, built by children’s imagination and numerous significant subplots. It is grounded by Nell’s first-person storytelling and her love for River. The abundance of plotting is further anchored by the moral decisions each character must make: should Nell cage a magical creature to find her brother? Did Annika use social media to bully a classmate? Universal realistic themes are used as jumping-off points for magical elevators, talking park statues, and other fantastical details that readers will find appealing, and the action ends on a cliffhanger that will leave tweens wanting more. No skin tones are described.

VERDICT A domestic fantasy that covers a lot of ground with solid character development, this novel will be enjoyed by many readers.

– School Library Journal, 9/9/2022

"Readers hoping to become enmeshed in conspiracies with links to folklore, mythology, and literature will be in heaven....A thrilling page-turner."

Kirkus Reviews

"Balancing the tweens’ everyday social pressures with a dangerous quest across the fantastical 19th-century version of New York City that is the Nigh, Potter (the Big Foot and Little Foot series) satisfyingly blends contemporary snark with physical adventures heightened by spell-casting misfires, anxious close calls, and just-scary-enough monsters."

Publishers Weekly

"[Hither & Nigh is] one of my favorite books of 2022 - and ever. I LOVED it and highly recommend it to anyone who loves unique, surprising stories with strong character development and hopeful, magical stories."

 

– Melissa Taylor, Imagination Soup

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images