The power of pretending--or is it magic?--is ingeniously but mechanically developed in the interplay between Tony, who likes to pretend, and pragmatic Rachel, who scoffs at his make-believe. She scoffs when Tom finds a doll's head and pretends it's magic, but then by wishing on it the children land inside Rachel's scary picture and then go flying on a scarier balloon ride. Rachel says that this proves the doll's head is actually magic; but when "pretending" they know how to operate it brings the balloon down safely in Rachel's back yard, she concedes that sometimes pretending can help you. Sleator's teasing questions and magic/pretending distinction take this a step beyond the usual confrontation between magic or pretending and skepticism. However, without the imagined life that wins assent for magic, pretending, or realistic fiction, it might strike children as an arid sort of distinction.