The Vanishing Coin
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2014 142 pages
Realistic Fiction with a touch of Magic
The Magic Shop series #1
Mike is trying so hard to make fourth grade a better year. He struggles with sitting still in class and paying attention, to the point that school is a lot of work. Even while putting forth his best efforts, Mike manages to get into trouble and get off on a bad foot with his new teacher. Making matters worse, Mike must spend every day after school with his new neighbor Nora, who although is nice and they have a lot in common, is a girl and always is perfect. Jackson, the class bully loves to push Mike's buttons and help him to find trouble, gleefully enjoying the show. Since Mike is not allowed to play soccer with his friends until he gets his grades up, he and Nora have time on their hands. They discover a magic shop in town that they never noticed before. The owner, Mr. Zerlin, asks Mike a riddle, which he solves and is awarded with the secret behind a magic trick. Mike uses the trick to fool Jackson and finds that he has both an aptitude and passion for magic. After Mr. Zerlin passes a book of magic onto Mike he practices non-stop and learns a few more tricks, eventually letting Nora in on the secrets as his accomplice. Mike has finally found something he is good at and enjoys. When Mike and Nora are stranded at the soccer field at the end of the story, his pockets are suddenly filled with quarters for the pay phone right after Mr. Zerlin passes by. Is Mr. Zerlin really magical? We will find out as the series continues.
The Magic Shop series is a fun choice for readers new to chapter books that want something a little different. Perfect for reluctant readers, the font is large, the chapters are short, and cartoon-like illustrations, sometimes full-page, are plentiful and can be found in every chapter. Kids love magic and this book will draw readers right in. Egan worked with a professional magician, Mike Lane, in getting the magic just right. Three tricks are included in the book, so budding magicians can learn the secrets behind the magic. The tricks are very clearly displayed and illustrated and are easy enough for kids to learn and require minimal supplies and nothing to purchase. Many kids will relate to Mike's struggles with sitting still. He seems to suffer from ADHD and it is surprising that both the school and his parents, who appear to be college professors, aren't getting him help. He wants to sit still and do well in school, but physically can't. Hopefully magic will prove to be the outlet Mike needs to channel his energy. Adding Nora as a character will make the book accessible to both boys and girls and pretty much everyone who picks it up will enjoy the story. Appealing most naturally to lovers of magic, muggles will love it too. There are four books in this series and they are all currently in print and are popular at my library.