cover image The Magic Word

The Magic Word

Mac Barnett, illus. by Elise Parsley. Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-235484-6

“What’s the magic word?” It’s a cloying reminder about good manners from the powers that be. One night, Barnett’s bratty hero, Paxton C. Heymeyer, makes an important discovery: by saying “alakazoomba” instead of “please,” he can bypass the middleman and magically get whatever he wants. Naturally, Paxton’s wishes escalate fast: first a cookie, then a walrus that chases his babysitter to the North Pole, then an amusement park to replace his house. But Paxton soon comes to realize that having an elephant that knows how knows how to play “Go Fish” doesn’t mean much if the people you care about aren’t around. Barnett’s (Rules of the House) narration hits all the right wry notes (“Paxton wasn’t going to stand there and be insulted in his very own house, let alone his very own castle with a helipad and pink-lemonade moat”), while Parsley’s (If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don’t!) expressive, exaggerated drawings give the story the tight narrative arc, visual breeziness, and snappy comic rhythms of an 11-minute animated cartoon. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Oct.)