The co-authors, a brother and sister team (Carole Barrowman is a professor and frequent contributor to this paper's books coverage; her brother is a well-known television star in Great Britain) have written an imaginative and entertaining children's fantasy that's sure to cast a page-turning spell on readers. Two plucky protagonists, 12-year-old twins Matt and Em, seem pretty normal -- except for their magical ability to bring art to life.

Their power to enter paintings and create drawings that come to life -- often to rescue themselves from peril -- also makes them the target of otherworldly villains who want to exploit their magic. "Hollow Earth" will doubtless be a hit with the "Harry Potter" set.

The action takes place in an enchanted setting, a Scottish island where medieval monks once illustrated manuscripts. The narrative moves smoothly between the real world, where Matt and Em must do what their mother says, and the magical world, where they confront demons sent by a shadowy, evil-doing organization.

The adventure really begins when Matt and Em's mother mysteriously disappears; without adult guidance, the twins are forced to fend for themselves, using their powers to unravel the secrets of their missing mother. In the end, after countless scrapes with monsters and lots of pulse-racing twists and turns, they learn to use their magic wisely while relying on each other. "Hollow Earth" is a well-crafted, vivid story that's sure to please kids who are starting to spread their wings, much like Matt and Em succeed in doing.