The Wizard, the Ugly and the Book of Shame

Pablo Bernasconi, Author, Pablo Bernasconi, Illustrator . Bloomsbury $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58234-673-1

Chancery, a hulking fellow known as "the Ugly" for his freckled blue skin and jagged underbite, covets his wizard boss's Red Book of Spells. The benevolent magician doesn't allow Chancery to play with magic, though: " 'Wizardry concerns wizards,' he would say, 'and that's only me.' " When the wizard makes a house call, Chancery sneaks a forbidden peek at the Red Book. "I want to be handsome," he tells it, whereupon its contents shower out in a glittery explosion. The blue fellow, whose features don't change, glues the pieces willy-nilly back into the book before the wizard returns. The wizard's spells soon fail with alarming (if amusing) results, displeasing a fire-breathing dragon and angering a king. Chancery finally confesses, and "must attain his innermost wish—without using any magic." Bernasconi (Captain Arsenio ) indicates that "the mirror" is to blame for the hero's self-consciousness; "the Ugly" solves his problem by putting on an earnest smile. Lively patchwork collages show magical and not-so-magical transformations, and Bernasconi establishes appealing characters and prickly tension. Readers will sympathize with Chancery's predicament, even though the stolid conclusion shows the fellow accepting his lowly place (with a grin) and the wizard conserving his special authority ("if an ordinary person asks the book for anything, it protects itself," he tut-tuts). Bernasconi suggests that some embarrassing missteps can be remedied without a swish of the wand. Ages 5-up. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Children's
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