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The Skull of Truth
by Bruce Coville
In the other three “Magic Shop Books,” the adventure begins when a child, running from some bullies (or at least, from a girl who wants to kiss him) finds himself on a strange street, in front of a strange shop owned by Mr. Elives. And then the child spends a handful of pocket change to buy a magical item that can help him or her deal with his own special problem. Charlie Egglestons adventure begins a bit differently. Charlie has a problem with the truth, and perhaps it is the streak of dishonesty in him that leads him to shoplift a skull from Mr. Elives shop.
By and by, Charlie finds out that Mr. Elives knows he has the skull, knows where he lives, and could make him pay for it if he wants to…but doesnt. Mr. Elives is actually quite relieved to get rid of the talking skull, which belongs to a medieval Danish court-jester named Yorick. As Yorick chatters straight into Charlies brain, something remarkable happens. Wise-acre he may be, but Yorick can only tell the truth. Thats how he ended up as a skull. And now everyone in Charlies house has to tell the truth, while Yorick is under the same roof. You would think a dose of truth would be helpful and sometimes, it is but it can also be disastrous!
Amid the humor and horror of family members and dinner guests uttering uncomfortable truths they did not mean to say aloud, this story also teaches some lessons about accepting other people as they are, not worrying about what other people think of you, and protecting the environment. It might be a bit preachier than it needs to be, and the vague sense of menace that Coville carefully builds may seem to simply evaporate without the expected, climactic resolution. Nevertheless, it is a funny, lighthearted adventure with a touch of suspense, a dash of fairy-tale, and a pinch of Shakespeare.