Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review - Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville

Short review: A fun story about finding out what is important with a magical twist.

Murdley's toad can talk,
And it's a pain in the butt,
But teaches her stuff

Full review: Jennifer Murdley's Toad is part of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop series. As with the other books in the series, a young protagonist comes across the Magic Shop and is given a magical gift that turns out to require them to become more than they had been to that point. In this book, the protagonist is a plain looking girl named Jennifer Murdley, and her magical gift is a talking toad named Bufo.

Jennifer is not an attractive girl, and is self-conscious about her appearance - wishing she were blonde and pretty. She is picked on by the popular, pretty girls, and finds herself in an unfamiliar alley with a magic shop. Inside, the odd proprietor sells her what turns out to be Bufo, the talking toad, for a pittance. As might be expected, Jennifer does not consider a talking toad to be something that will improve her position among her peers, and to make matters worse, Bufo is demanding and difficult.

Things go from bad to worse, as Jennifer discovers that a witch is after Bufo, a transforming curse affects Jennifer and her friends, and it proves difficult to keep her talking toad a secret from her brothers and the other people in her life. Jennifer must assume greater responsibility protecting both her toad and those around her, and must come to grips with her own insecurities.

The tale is basically a story about Jennifer growing up, and realizing that what she wants may not actually be something that is all that important. The story is told in a light-hearted humorous manner, although the villain is treated reasonably seriously, as Coville deftly avoids having her end up as a joke. despite the fact that the story is at times predictable, I was caught by surprise by the ending, although in retrospect all of the clues pointing towards the ending were embedded in the plot. Overall, this is a fun little book, well-suited to younger readers, with equal parts humor and adventure well-worth the time spent reading it.

Previous book in the series: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher
Subsequent book in the series: The Skull of Truth

1993 Mythopoeic Award Nominees

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  1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: Of all the Magic Shop books I have read it is my favorite. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find Juliet Dove, Goddess of Love or any of the other books that come later than The Skull of Truth, so I have not read them.