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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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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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