JACKSON & JENKS, MASTER MAGICIANS

Frischman, known for playing Arvid on the TV series Head of the Class, creates a madcap tale with zany twists and turns in his debut children’s novel.

Jamie and Darren, two 15-year-olds in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., work mindless jobs and dream of becoming famous millionaires. As they bumble through magic shows, they realize the fantasy of becoming famed magicians is fading. Then, while shopping in a thrift store, Jamie rubs a bottle and a genie invades the body of a fellow shopper, who tells Jamie that he has three wishes. Jamie and Darren flee from the man, assuming he’s crazy, but later Jamie wishes aloud that he could be the best magician in the world and he’s suddenly able to do tricks that he only dreamed possible—tricks that could never occur without the use of real magic. As the pair’s popularity increases, enemies emerge, taking the boys on a wild ride as the pair attempt to hold onto their status of the world’s greatest magicians. As the police, FBI and a jealous competitor chase the boys, the duo learns important lessons about friendship and fame with surprising magical twists. The book nicely captures the lesson that success requires hard work, something the fame-hungry boys soon realize. Frischman creates a wild adventure; the boys straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa and turn the U.S. president into a guinea pig, while another character becomes an Arabian princess. However, some of writing is awkwardly constructed (“Dark red rivets dressed its ornate neck design”), and Frischman’s depiction of TV personalities seems bitter and mean-spirited, detracting from the fun of the book. A male talk show host calls the female host an “overpaid, brainless ditz” after she admits she thinks their guests are vapid and their movies or TV shows are without merit. But the overall tale is still an enjoyable ride. Frischman crafts an exciting, whimsical story that will entertain adults and children.

 

Pub Date: April 7, 2009

ISBN: 978-0979629600

Page Count: 237

Publisher: J.J. Ross Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2012

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HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

Sophie is caught between a powerful witch and wizard who are terrorizing the magical land of Ingary. Living a humdrum life as a hatter till the malicious Witch of the Waste casts a spell turning her into an old woman, Sophie seeks refuge as cleaning woman to Wizard Howl (although he's rumored to eat the hearts of young girls) in his castle, which moves at will about the countryside. Actually, Howl is a brash young man whose only vice is womanizing. He is a gifted wizard but the despair of his inept apprentice and of Calcifer, a humorously petulant fire demon, because of such human faults as messiness and spending too long in the bath. As in her memorable Archer's Goon, Jones has a plethora of characters who are seldom what they seem and an intricate plot which may dazzle with its complexity or delight by the hilarious common-sense consequences of its preposterous premises. Sophie is a dauntless heroine; when she regains her youth and wins Howl, the odds are this is only the beginning of a tempestuous romance. Great fun.

Pub Date: April 14, 1986

ISBN: 0061478784

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1986

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Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is...

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CRENSHAW

Applegate tackles homelessness in her first novel since 2013 Newbery winner The One and Only Ivan.

Hunger is a constant for soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson and his family, and the accompanying dizziness may be why his imaginary friend is back. A giant cat named Crenshaw first appeared after Jackson finished first grade, when his parents moved the family into their minivan for several months. Now they’re facing eviction again, and Jackson’s afraid that he won’t be going to school next year with his friend Marisol. When Crenshaw shows up on a surfboard, Jackson, an aspiring scientist who likes facts, wonders whether Crenshaw is real or a figment of his imagination. Jackson’s first-person narrative moves from the present day, when he wishes that his parents understood that he’s old enough to hear the truth about the family’s finances, to the first time they were homeless and back to the present. The structure allows readers access to the slow buildup of Jackson’s panic and his need for a friend and stability in his life. Crenshaw tells Jackson that “Imaginary friends don’t come of their own volition. We are invited. We stay as long as we’re needed.” The cat’s voice, with its adult tone, is the conduit for the novel’s lessons: “You need to tell the truth, my friend….To the person who matters most of all.”

Though the lessons weigh more heavily than in The One and Only Ivan, a potential disappointment to its fans, the story is nevertheless a somberly affecting one . (Fiction. 7-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04323-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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