April 03, 2005

Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism, by Georgia Byng

This is a book I got at a book fair at my kids' elementary school a year or two ago, with the expectation that maybe I'd read it to them as a bedtime story. It looked somewhat interesting, and the first few pages were not bad, and David that it looked really good. It's been sitting on the shelf ever since, and I decided I'd read it through myself first, rather than starting on it with the kids and getting myself in another Lemony Snicket situation.

Molly Moon is your basic unattractive-and-poorly-behaved-in-spite-of-her-best-intentions young ragamuffin girl; she lives at your basic orphanage-run-by-sadists-who-don't-like-little-kids. Most of the other kids call her names and are mean to her, and the woman who runs the school makes her clean out the toilet with her toothbrush for misbehaving, and her only friend is adopted to a family in New York. Molly finds a book on hypnotism, learns how to hypnotize pretty much anybody, and proceeds to start making a few changes around the orphanage and in her life in general. Along the way she travels to New York and has to outwit the evil Professor Nock, who wants her hypnotism book for his own nefarious purposes.

I found the book less annoying than Snicket's The Bad Beginning--not a difficult trick--but although it had some good bits it was a bit tedious, with a fair amount of heavy-handed moralizing and some thoroughly unbelievable changes of heart toward the end. The dust jacket describes the author as "Another challenger for the crowns of J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman," which is laughable. On the one hand she's not nearly as skilled as either, and on the other nobody does heavy-handed moralizing with such self-defeating panache as Philip Pullman.

If things run according to form, I'll probably get two or three comments from kids who think Molly Moon is simply the best. And that's fine; my point is simply that unlike Rowling's books, or C.S. Lewis's, or Lloyd Alexander's, you're not going to see many adults reading about young Molly for their own pleasure.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to save the book for a few years, and let the kids read it to themselves if they like. I've been through it once, and I feel no need to read it again.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 3, 2005 08:33 PM