The Vanishing Coin
Kate Egan with Magician Mike Lane; illustrated by Eric Wight
In the latest round of Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees, it’s time for another chapter book. Due up: The Vanishing Coin by Kate Egan (with assistance from Magician Mike Lane). Once again, this book is the first in a series. The book reads quickly (I was able to finish it in a day), but overall, I did not find it to be on the same level as the other nominees. While billed as a chapter book, I found the text to simple, the story line too simplistic, and the character development too flat to be on par with the other chapter books that I’ve read so far.
Summary: Mike Weiss has just started fourth grade, and despite his best efforts, the school year is turning out to be as terrible as every year before it. He’s terrible at staying focused and on task, and, much to his dismay, is in the principal’s office within the first week of school. Added to his problems, his classmate Jackson is a grade-A bully, and, due to his parents’ new friendship with the neighbors, he has to spend his afternoons with the somewhat nerdy, definitely female Nora. Just when it seems that all hope for the year is lost, Nora and Mike stumble upon The White Rabbit, a hidden magic shop in a local shopping center. Has Mike finally discovered something that he can be good at?
What I Liked: Initially, Mike presented as a very likable character, a fourth-grade boy struggling with attention problems and poor academics. However, given the brevity of the story, Mike as a character is never fully developed. The author touches briefly on his struggles in school, and his frustration at always letting those around him down, but these feelings are not fully explored. Also, I enjoyed the inclusion of the magic tricks that Mike was learning, since it gave the reader a chance to practice magic as well and learn something while reading. However, I didn’t like that they appeared in the middle of the chapters as Mike was practicing them. I found them distracting, and think they would have been better served somewhere else in the text.
What I Didn’t Like: Even though this book was easy to read, I just couldn’t get into the story. I felt like character development fell short, the plot line was lacking, and the book ended abruptly. Even though I read this book knowing it was the first book in a series, I expected some conclusions by the end of the book. However, it ends as if there are more chapters to read, and there is no plot resolution for any of the issues presented. Readers will have to read the second book if they want to know what happens with Mike and Nora. While the language is simple and straightforward, I found it too easy to read as a chapter book. There was nothing to challenge me while reading. Although the ideas of struggling with what you are good at and disappointing others are good, they lack development to fully explore the issues. While Mike is a fourth-grade student, the book in no way appeals to a fourth grade audience.
Overall Feeling: While this story may appeal to some readers, as a nominee for the Texas Bluebonnet Award, it falls short. The story and its writing and too simplistic to put it on par with the other nominees. The book, while enjoyable, will not hold the attention or interest of an older audience, and lacks the appeal of some of the picture book titles on the list. Reading the sequel will be a requirement to anyone who hopes for plot resolution, so I don’t recommend this title for anyone who is looking for a one-and-done read. I would recommend this book for younger readers and reluctant readers who need something simple and to the point. An interest in magic is also a must to make this novel more appealing to readers.