Clive Cussler is the author of many New York Times bestsellers, most recently The Spy and Lost Empire. He lives in Arizona.
Bestselling adult author Cussler meshes fantasy and adventure in this lighthearted tale, which opens on a California farm. After an itinerant farmhand arrives to help the Nicefolk family with the harvest, twin 10-year-old siblings Casey and Lacey begin to hear "unexplainable tinkling and clinking noises" coming from the barn. On his departure, the stranger gives the kids a contraption that can make toys life-size-but they must only use the device to do good and must keep it a secret. Cussler sets his tale at a time when steamboats still traveled the Mississippi: Casey builds a replica of the Wright brothers' biplane, Flyer, which he names Vin Fiz (after his favorite soda pop), and uses the magical machine to enlarge it. The twins and their dog take off on a cross-country flight in the aircraft, which possesses a "mystical vision" that draws it to people in danger. Under her guidance, the youngsters help free Nevada townsfolk forced by scoundrels to labor in a gold mine, halt a runaway train overtaken by bandits in Ohio and stop two girls from tumbling over Niagara Falls. Cussler sprinkles his folksy narrative with instructional notes ("A line, by the way, is nautical talk for rope") and facts (almost 800,000 gallons of water rush over Niagara Falls every second), and characters' names emphasize the text's tall-tale quality (e.g., Ever and Ima Nicefolk, Stoke and Blaze Firepit). This genial, at times suspenseful, caper wraps up with a note about the real Vin Fiz, and Farnsworth's drawings dramatize the climactic scenes. Ages 7-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Gr 3-5-Cussler's first children's book is a tribute to an airplane that crossed the United States in 1911. It is the tale of Casey and Lacey Nicefolk, who receive a gift from a hired hand that allows them to make their toys real and life-sized. First the twins make a tractor for their parents' farm, and then they use the magic to create an airplane designed by the Wright brothers that they call Vin Fiz. They decide to fly across the country to New York. On the way, they rescue townspeople who have been turned into gold-mining slaves by an evil man, keep a steamboat from crashing into a barge, stop a runaway train, and rescue two girls from going over Niagara Falls in a boat. Unfortunately, the book suffers from a lack of characterization as well as problems with gender stereotypes. Lacey, the female twin, is never the hero in the adventures. The writing is stilted and the story fails to come to life even though the situations have the potential to be exciting.-Tasha Saecker, Caestecker Public Library, Green Lake, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Clive Cussler has written a magical tale for children who are just beginning to read chapter books on their own. (Parent Paper)