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Jennifer Murdley’s Toad
by Bruce Coville
We should all be so lucky as to have a teacher or a father like Bruce Coville if for no other reason than to hear the stories he tells, and to meet the characters he creates (some of them actually came to visit his classroom from time to time). But perhaps the best reason to wish for a Bruce Coville in your life is that he seems to understand the awkward problems children live with.
Jennifer Murdleys problem is that shes, well, ugly. Plump, beady-eyed, unpretty, she is well described as the kid in the plain brown wrapper. It isnt easy to be plain in an age that reveres beauty to an unnatural degree. What does it take for Jennifer to begin her journey from being a beauty victim to learning to be happy with the beauty inside? In many other authors hands, it would take a magic spell turning her into a walking, talking Barbie doll. In Covilles hands, it does involve magic, but of quite a different kind: a visit to Mr. Elives Magic Shop, a talking toad, a series of adventures involving kisses that turn people into toads, and a wicked witch become the ingredients in a magic spell that brings Jennifers special kind of beauty out for all to see. No, she doesnt end up becoming fabulous in the end; but she wont be so lonely or picked-on, either.
This book is somewhere in the middle of the series of Magic Shop Books by Bruce Coville. The other books in the series are The Monster’s Ring; Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher; and The Skull of Truth. Between them, these books have won the state Childrens Book Award in no fewer than nine states, plus an IRA Childrens Choice and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. So if you or your child would like to make a magical discovery, be sure to visit the Magic Shop.