cover image The Strongest Girl in the World; The Invisible Boy

The Strongest Girl in the World; The Invisible Boy

Sally Gardner, . . Dial, $15.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-3158-5

Gardner takes a completely different path from her I, Coriander with these two tales in the Magical Kids series, which comically turn logic on its head. Eight-year-old Josie, "small for her age, and skinny to boot," one day discovers she has become extraordinarily strong. When the strongest man in Britain sees her pick up a bus on TV, he suggests a contest (she wins). A sleazy man then takes the girl and her family to New York, where she pulls off feats for his financial gain. Josie tires of this three-ring-circus and laments that her stunts do not serve any useful purpose. But all of that changes when the lass comes to the rescue of some endangered New Yorkers. A flip of the book introduces a broader humor and Sam, forced to stay with diabolical neighbor Hilda when his parents win a trip to the moon. After their shuttle is "lost in space," the lad takes solace in the company of Splodge, an alien whose spaceship crashes in the garden ("I come in peas. Take me to your chef," says the visitor, explaining his search for "sauce of the tomato fifty-seven"—aka ketchup). Splodge renders Sam invisible (the boy exacts humorous revenge on horrible Hilda) and helps bring Sam's parents safely home. What ties these tales together (aside from a cameo by a shared classmate and some exploitative adults) is the children's relief to be normal once more. Gardner's playful hyperbole and spry pen-and-inks are certain kid-pleasers. Ages 7-up. (Mar.)