Wizard at Work: Not groundbreaking, but fun for young readers

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewschildren's fantsy book reviews Vivian Van Velde Wizard at WorkWizard at Work by Vivian Vande Velde

Wizards are supposed to be old men with pointy hats, so the young wizard professor at the center of this story makes himself look like an old man during the school year. He puts his disguise away at the beginning of his summer vacation and looks forward to a few months of puttering around the garden growing vegetables he won’t eat, when a chance encounter with a witch sets him off on a series of adventures to discover that appearances don’t always match reality.

Wizard at Work by Vivian Vande Velde is a collection of humorous takes on familiar fairy tale staples. Each chapter treats a different trope — Cinderella, dragons, magic mirrors, unicorns, and ghosts all put in appearances in some form or another — and together they form a sweet, simple, and gently funny collection of tales that will delight younger readers. Both characters and plot are drawn with broad strokes that keep the story moving along from one adventure to the next.

Though no one will ever accuse Wizard at Work of breaking new ground, it’s a fun novel that is age appropriate. The moral at the center of the story is subtly woven in, though evident throughout, as the wizard finds his own happy ending by looking past the surface and seeing the value deep within. At just 144 pages, an adult could breeze through this in an hour, but I think it would be a wonderful chapter book for early readers, or for a read-aloud book with younger children at bedtime.

Wizard at Work — (2003) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The wizard has big summer plans: To garden, fish, and nap. The only thing better would be if he had someone nice to share the days with. But the only people who show up want him to rescue yet another princess, lift the usual vile curse, confront a fearsome ghost, deal with a pack of magical hooligans, harvest a crop of golden cucumbers, and on and on… With everything he has to do, it’s no wonder the wizard is all by himself! Who’d want to help him do all of that?

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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