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THE WIZARD by Bill Martin Jr.


by Bill Martin Jr. & illustrated by Alex Schaefer

Age Range: 3 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-298926-9
Publisher: Harcourt

The wizard is in his chamber, the cauldron is on the fire. Four assistants--a frog, a mouse, an insect, and a grimly appealing droog (a pea soup-colored assistant that looks like a cross between Marty Feldman and a chimpanzee)--engage the wizard in a series of games, accompanied by Martin's simple rhyming text (``I pong. I ping. I dong. I ding.''). The fun and games continue as the merrymakers swoop and dive and shuck and juke and slip and slide to a steady beat of words that feel like a spell being cast. A trace of menace enters the picture as an owl is trapped and hung above the black kettle. Then the wizard slips (he has been using soap cakes as skates), knocks open the door of the owl's cage (readers sigh with relief), and does a neat flip right into the hot pink bubbling potion. Fast as that, he's a goner. The illustrations, for all their gnarly, oil-on-linen texture, are nimble and riveting. Schaefer handles this potentially terrifying story with a light touch; suspense hangs in the air, but the characters are this side of scary. (Picture book. 3-8)