As a librarian, parent or teacher, it is often difficult to find interesting books for those â€œreluctant readersâ€ who crop up between fourth through eighth grades.
The book cannot be too long, and it cannot have a lot of scene description or lengthy narrative. To keep the reader engaged, a book has to be short and sweet.
Dan Frischman of Burbank has managed to address this niche with his debut children's book, â€œJackson & Jenks, Master Magicians.â€
This is a story of two boys, Darren Jackson and Jamie Jenks, who are looking for the quickest way up the millionaire ladder.
Darren works as a giraffe at a nearby pizza and party place, miserably dealing with rude, abusive children and a manager with an exaggerated sense of self.
Jamie amuses and annoys at the nearby convenience store/deli, making up catchy rhymes while he prepares customers' orders, and driving the owner nuts!
He tries to sell the owner one of Darren's great inventions â€” the Super Sucker automatic broom â€” which flies off the handle (pun intended) and trashes the entire store!
After this catastrophic failure, Darren and Jamie go back to the drawing board and decide they will perform magic for the local kids. Even though their magic is not the greatest, everyone is so entertained by their foibles, Jackson & Jenks become a tremendous hit all over town.
When the boys stumble into a thrift store one day to look for magician costumes, their luck makes some huge changes, launching them to the peak of fame and back again, with many hilarious twists and turns, including a guinea pig president and the Lincoln Memorial taking a walk! This helps balance out the more clichÃ©d aspects of Frischman's story, such as the genie in the bottle granting three wishes, which, of course, go terribly awry; or the candid ways that Darren and Jamie always narrowly escape any disaster they come across.
The story is dialogue-driven and reminiscent of a 1980s Nickelodeon sitcom, which appeals perfectly to that reluctant reader mentioned earlier. Jamie is goofy, wild and a little on the slow side as far as brains are concerned, which pairs nicely with Darren, the slightly chubby honor roll student who comes up with all the great ideas to begin with. The characters play off each other with an almost Laurel and Hardy feel, only Darren is less of a bully than his historical counterpart, Laurel.
What is really going to make the book a success is its readability and appeal for those who may not be ready for things like â€œHarry Potterâ€ or the â€œChronicles of Narnia.â€ While some of the content tends to be a bit mature given the target audience, ultimately this is a funny, fast and fine first book by Frischman.
?LYDA TRUICK has a masters of library and information science. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.