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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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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