Friday, October 29, 2010

Battle of the Books Friday - Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville

From the back cover:
“I do have one toad—only one—that I can let you have for a somewhat lower price,” Mr. Elives said.
Jennifer Scowled. “What’s wrong with it?”
“There is nothing wrong with him. He simply does not suit my needs. He will however, provide you with a great deal of—amusement. It may, indeed, be a perfect match.”
Something about the way the old man said this struck Jennifer as odd. She had an uneasy feeling that he was making fun of her. Yet there was no trace of a smile on his face.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
The old man shrugged. “No one comes into this shop by accident,” he said, as if that explained things."

Poor Jennifer was having a day! She’s not happy with her looks.  Her dad puts all of underwear in the washing machine and she is forced to wear her brother’s under pants.  She hopes to keep it a secret but her best friend tells everyone. She’s behind on a report. How is she supposed to write a report about having a pet when she doesn’t have a pet?  And she’s being picked on by the beautiful popular girl Sharra.  Things don’t get any better when she stumbles into a mysterious shop as she tries to get away from a bully.  True, Mr. Elive’s Magic Shop does have a variety of animals and she does walk away with one. But a toad was not exactly what she had in mind for a pet. However, this is no ordinary toad.  Once she’s out of the shop it starts talking to her. He has lots to say but he often leaves out important information; such as strange birth, the treasure hidden in his forehead or that there’s a witch out to get him so she can have the treasure.  Before Jennifer knows it people are turning into toads and she and her friends are being chased by an evil witch.

Children will love the hilarious escapades of Jennifer and her toad.  Older readers may recognize references to fairy tales.  Coville has written an engaging and creative story that manages to deliver a message without beating the reader over the head with a billboard.

Recommended for ages 9 - 12.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 5 of 5

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