A self-consciously silly book, in which freckles and speech impediments are placed in the service of attempts at comedy, and which panders, desperately, to the baser impulses of middle graders. Nicholas hates his freckles, which make him the butt of jokes in school. When the strange and disgusting Mr. Piddlesticks offers to remove them, Nicholas is overjoyed. But after they are gone, Nicholas discovers that they were magic freckles, and the evil Piddlesticks now has them under his control. With his father missing for a year, his mother in a permanent fog, and his brother (the one with the speech impediment) covered head to toe with warts, Nicholas alone has to recover his freckles and thwart Piddlesticks. He becomes the hero of the day, rescuing his missing father, and saving the school. Although Nicholas's classmates and teacher are detestable, his revenge on them is not very satisfying; even the gross humor and mean-spirited jokes may not be enough to steer children through these pages.