What happens when magic goes berserk?
In the case of Mr. Hardbattle’s old and dusty bookshop, where magic has taken up residence, its behavior is erratic, ranging from mischievous to uncontrollable. Staples play a skipping game, books read themselves and thumbtacks attack bare feet. That's tame, though, compared to inanimate objects’ coming to life, the second-to-last step’s turning to custard and, worst of all, The Smell (individually offensive to each person who comes into the shop). When Mr. Hardbattle ventures forth to find a new home for the magic, Miss Quint and schoolboy Arthur take over the shop and discover they can bring book characters to life. Bedlam ensues when a motley collection of fictional creations overruns the bookshop, and three miscreants engineer a series of burglaries. How to foil uppity Mrs. Voysey-Brown, Jimmy the bellhop and Mr. Claggitt, a mountaineer? A plot to catch them in the act works and everyone and everything returns to (almost) normal. In the thick of the twists, the magic itself becomes a character, directing and redirecting the action, which is most of the fun here. Though the novelis set in the quaint (fictional) English town of Plumford and oozes English coziness from every pore, it has, alas, been Americanized—a shame.
Blimey, no Harry Potter competition here, just a light encounter with British humor no amount of American vocabulary can disguise. (Magical adventure. 8-11)