Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
"I told Jennifer she shouldn't do it." Maggie picked absently at the cuff of her sweater. She spent half her time trying to keep her twin sister out of trouble and the other half covering up for her. "Do what? Disappear?" Her mother's voice had an unpleasant edge. Maggie tugged at a bit of loose wool. She could imagine the reaction if she told the truth just now: Yes, Mum. I told her not to disappear, but she did it anyway!In Taylor's sixth juvenile novel, she most effectively combines elements of fantasy with a mystery to produce an engaging read which will hold her male and female middle school audience until the work's final sentence. Divided into two major parts, the book's initial section establishes the character and plot foundation for the mystery which follows in the second segment. The principal characters are Maggie and Jennifer Arnold, 13-year- old identical twins, and Samuel Elwin, their friend and next-door neighbour. Although the two girls look alike, the siblings differ markedly in their personalities with Maggie being the quiet, "perfect" daughter and Jennifer the mischievous handful. The book's title, Vanishing Act, derives its meaning from the fact that, just prior to the story's opening, Jennifer, having found a spell for invisibility and possessing an inquisitive, impulsive nature, has tried it with positive results. Becoming visible again initially proves to be a problem until Jennifer discovers that repeating the spell backwards will rematerialize her. However, Jennifer subsequently finds herself suddenly disappearing and reappearing without the spell's use. Eventually she realizes that, by lying and laughing, she can initiate and disengage the disappearing process. Since their early childhood, Jennifer and Sam had aspired to be detectives with their own agency when they grew up. In looking for mysteries to solve now, the pair's search for Mrs. Arnold's missing watch leads to questions about the seeming disappearance of Mr. Arnold following his divorce from the girls' mother three years previously. An invitation from the twins' paternal grandmother to join her on a summer cruise through the Greek Islands leads the young trio, with the help of feisty "Grand", into a search for Mr. Arnold, a quest that involves kidnapping and murder, spies and double agents, and Middle-Eastern intrigue. While Jennifer's use of her vanishing act in the story's first section is largely connected to light, humorous happenings concerning a female rival, its role in the book's latter half is much more seriously related to sleuthing. Though elements of the plot are complex, Taylor skilfully handles the details to allow magic and reality to believably co-exist. As well, her utilization of the three juveniles as rotating chapter narrators guarantees that readers never miss out on any of the action. A worthy addition to school and public library collections.
Dave Jenkinson teaches children's and young adult literature courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - MARCH 13, 1998.
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