In this middle-grade novel, a girl coping with her mother’s death experiences a series of bizarre adventures involving a magical TV set after she moves in with her shopping-addicted grandmother.
Madison McGee, an 11-year-old tomboy with a love of the great outdoors, begins her summer mourning the sudden death of her mother from a heart attack. Madison has never known her father, and she has no guardian to turn to except her maternal grandmother, Florida Brown, a resident of the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, N.M. Florida, who cares less about her granddaughter’s tomboy interests and more about trying to pretty her up, is addicted to shopping shows on TV, filling her house with the useless, bizarre goods she orders every day. Lonely Madison finds solace in one neighbor’s sweet but neglected dog as well as an oddball woman named Rosalie Claire, who has a penchant for wise words and a fanny pack similar to Mary Poppins’ magical carpetbag. Madison’s already topsy-turvy summer gets even weirder when the MegaPix 6000 shows up at Florida’s house. This mysterious, magical television has the power to zap the viewer into whatever show he or she is currently watching, whether it be one of Florida’s shopping shows, Madison’s favorite teen sitcom or a survival-based reality show in the Amazon. Through their time in the MegaPix and in the real world, Madison and Florida end up learning a number of valuable lessons about the importance of family and accepting people’s differences, no matter how odd they might seem. Author Arnold’s debut novel, the first in a trilogy about Madison’s adventures with the MegaPix, is fun and fantastical, with wacky characters that burst off the page and into readers’ hearts. Though the plot at some points relies a bit too heavily on magic, Madison is relatable as a protagonist, which helps keep the story grounded, and its zaniness and originality should be a welcome distraction for young readers.
A worthy romp that manages to teach powerful lessons as it entertains.