MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON
Written and Illustrated by Laurie Smollett Kutscera
Blue Whale Press 4/1/2020
178 Pages Age 8—12
. . . . . . . . DEBUT
Genre: Middle Grade Book, Fiction
Themes: Magic, Card Tricks, Grief
Twelve-year-old Alex was taught illusion by the best. Misadventures of a Magician’s Son tells the story of Alexander Finn’s personal journey dealing with the death of his father, a celebrated magician, and the extraordinary gift he left behind. Uprooted from his childhood home for the seemingly hokey town of Orchard, Maine, Alex refuses to unpack and wants nothing to do with his new surroundings. But when he discovers an unusual deck of cards tucked in the back of his father’s old desk, things begin to unravel and Alex’s true adventure begins. (from back cover)
“Alexander Finn yanked his hood over his head and slipped behind the old oak tree. He hid there watching the afternoon school bus loaded with twitchy middle graders pull away from the curb. Spitballs in full launch, the bus turned the corner, and Alex ran off in the opposite direction.”
Why I like Misadventures of a Magician’s Son
Alex’s father dies in a tragic accident. Shortly after, his mother moves herself and Alex to mom’s hometown; one of those “everyone knows your name” places. Alex is not happy. He had to leave his friends and his lacrosse team. He acts passive-aggressive about the move, leaving his moving boxes against the wall, unpacked. Other than the boxes, his bedroom contains a bed and his dad’s old desk. Inside the desk, against the back of a locked drawer, Alex finds his father’s old magic deck. He doesn’t remember meeting the cards as a toddler, but the cards remember Alex.
Imagine being the son or daughter of a famous magician. Then imagine the magician’s deck of cards now in your care. (Dad passes away tragically at work.) You shuffle the cards and think of dad when suddenly the King of Hearts turns into a tiny king, one you can see and hear. This is King Anton, with his wife Queen Olivia and their son, Jack. King Anton seems to rule over the deck despite each suit having its own royalty. There is even a Joker; a real “card” with his sarcastic tongue and his scepter named Emilio. Alex didn’t need to imagine any of this as it all came true for him. His father’s famous card tricks suddenly became clearer for Alex who can perform all but the Dance of Suits (Jack screwed up the last performance of this trick and cannot get over himself now).
Even without a fancy deck of cards, Alex is surprisingly good with cards and shows off at lunch one day. A teacher convinces Alex to perform in a magic contest to celebrate a mall opening in town. He agrees, blowing the audience away with his amazing card tricks. But a thief notices Alex’s amazingly performance, and, when Alex turns to sign autographs, the thief steals the deck of cards for nefarious reasons. All this crook knows is the cards are special and somehow did everything Alex asked of them. Alex looks everywhere for the cards without luck. Despondent, Alex is beside himself with worry. Plus, the cards gave him a link to his beloved father.
The thief cannot hear or see the cards as anything but cards. But when he commands a card change from whatever it is to an ace, giving him a royal flush, the cards must comply, as the would-be card shark is now in control of the deck. The cards understand their actions are wrong and possibly illegal but cannot go against the man. They need Alex to reclaim them before the man takes off for Vegas and the cards are lost forever.
This crooked card player is also a superstitious guy and hates the Joker card, throwing it out the window, not knowing Joker is now free to get help. Joker races around the area, getting into one disaster after another. He finally finds help from a little Chihuahua who becomes Joker’s personal taxi. Somehow, the critter can understand Joker and Joker understands the dog. Together they search for Alex. Once they find him, Alex must figure out how to get his deck back.
Alex’s father entrusted the cards care to him, and he cannot let his father down. In his search, he meets Lindsay. Together they make plans to get back Alex’s deck of cards. Lindsay is a stabilizing force, keeping Alex thinking straight. He has found a new best friend.
Misadventures of a Magician’s Son is a fun, easy, quick read. Divided into 27 small chapters, the story is good for reluctant readers. Misadventures of a Magician’s Son will entertain middle grade kids who like magic and especially card tricks (though there are no secrets revealed). A popular setting for middle grade novels is middle school, so those readers tired of the school setting will like the change of pace as the majority of the story occurs in town.
The author includes a few black and white graphite pencil illustrations which are exceptionally good. Alex looks exactly like I envisioned him. The writing is tight and fast-paced. The small town is creative and inviting, though Alex fails to see this. The final round with the thief and his minions occurs mid-town during a busy time. The scenes are more humorous than dangerous despite the size, power, and determination of the thief’s cohorts. Kids will find Misadventures of a Magician’s Son imaginative and inventive.
Misadventures of a Magician’s Son is an excellent debut from Laurie Smollett Kutscera. I hope to get a chance to read her next book, whatever that might be.Favorite Sentence /Scene
Illustrations Rendered in graphite pencil.
Available at Amazon: Misadventures of a Magician’s Son
MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON. Copyright © 2020 by Laurie Smollett Kutscera. Published by Blue Whale Press, Texas.
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
[764 word count-review only]
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NEXT UP: PB – How I Trained My Dog in 10 Days Norma Lewis & Tom Tinn-Disbury
AND THEN: MG – America’s Outlaws and the Treasures They Left Behind by W. C. Jameson
wow, this gives a whole new meaning to a “marked” deck! What a fresh premise. It sounds so intriguing 😀