cover image The Adventures of Vin Fiz

The Adventures of Vin Fiz

Clive Cussler, , illus. by William Farnsworth. . Philomel, $15.99 (167pp) ISBN 978-0-399-24474-2

Bestselling adult author Cussler meshes fantasy and adventure in this lighthearted tale, which opens on a California farm. After an itinerant farmhand arrives to help the Nicefolk family with the harvest, twin 10-year-old siblings Casey and Lacey begin to hear "unexplainable tinkling and clinking noises" coming from the barn. On his departure, the stranger gives the kids a contraption that can make toys life-size—but they must only use the device to do good and must keep it a secret. Cussler sets his tale at a time when steamboats still traveled the Mississippi: Casey builds a replica of the Wright brothers' biplane, Flyer , which he names Vin Fiz (after his favorite soda pop), and uses the magical machine to enlarge it. The twins and their dog take off on a cross-country flight in the aircraft, which possesses a "mystical vision" that draws it to people in danger. Under her guidance, the youngsters help free Nevada townsfolk forced by scoundrels to labor in a gold mine, halt a runaway train overtaken by bandits in Ohio and stop two girls from tumbling over Niagara Falls. Cussler sprinkles his folksy narrative with instructional notes ("A line , by the way, is nautical talk for rope") and facts (almost 800,000 gallons of water rush over Niagara Falls every second), and characters' names emphasize the text's tall-tale quality (e.g., Ever and Ima Nicefolk, Stoke and Blaze Firepit). This genial, at times suspenseful, caper wraps up with a note about the real Vin Fiz , and Farnsworth's drawings dramatize the climactic scenes. Ages 7-up. (Feb.)