Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins
Nory really, really wants to be able to turn herself into a fluffy black kitten. Only then will she be able to gain entry to the prestigious Sage Academy and win her father's elusive approval.
But Sage Academy is the premier school for talented young magicians, and Nory's magic has a nasty habit of going slightly wonky. Often she finds she's a bitten (part beaver, part kitten), and she just can't stop herself from gnawing everything. Or sometimes she's a dritten (part kitten, part dragon), and she can't resist breathing fire. Or she's part elephant, part skunk (skunkephant!)—with inevitably unfortunate consequences.
Sage academy decides it can do without her, and Nory is sent to school far away to learn how to manage her crazy, upside-down magic. She is lonely and homesick and nothing seems right. But sometimes our difference is what makes us powerful. As Nory begins to accept and enjoy her unusual skills, she also makes friends and discovers there's fun to be had with her new gang of misfits.
I enjoyed this book very much; it's funny, well-written and charming, perfect for magic fans who are not yet ready for Harry Potter. It's also one of the most genuinely multi-cultural children's books I've encountered. So if you want to celebrate diversity and tolerance while reading about gigantic unruly skunkephants running amok in the school cafeteria (and who doesn't?), then this book is definitely for you.