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The Magic Hat of Mortimer Wintergreen


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This is a lark of an adventure story, set in the 1890s, complete with dastardly villains, a con artist with a heart of gold, daring escapes, balloon rides and an appealing pair of orphaned children. Spoofing many of the conventions of the historical novel, Levoy provides a merry and suspenseful chase, as the orphans run away from evil Aunt Vootch, join ranks with a would-be magician and travel from South Dakota to New York City. The magician's hat, functioning independently of its owner, Mortimer Q. Wintergreen, serves the cause of justice in an original wayit spews taffy neck-high over two robbers. Exaggerations of the genre abound, and readers should be able to distinguish as such the evil aunt's abuse of the children (e.g., chaining them to a post in the pigpen). The abrupt ending and unanswered questions (whatever happened to Aunt Vootch?) suggest a sequel, which will be most welcome. Ages 8-12. (March)

Gr 5-7 Fantasy somewhat in the vein of Bill Brittain, especially his Dr. Dredd's Wagon of Wonders (Harper, 1987), but Levoy's account of a W. C. Fields-like scamp, an incredible magi cal hat, and a chase from South Dakota to New York City lacks Brittain's sure touch. Pursued by relentless Aunt Vootch, whom Joshua describes to Amy as ``tricky mean, which is the worst mean of all,'' the two orphaned children escape their aunt and team up with Wintergreen and his remarkable chapeau. By wagon and balloon Win tergreen helps the kids get to New York and find their grandparents. Along the way the hat produces incredible gifts often humorous. Wintergreen often speaks in strained comparisons that lack the deft sparkle of Levoy's teenage jargon in Alan and Naomi (1977) and Pictures of Adam (1986, both Harper). Still, a good readif only to make ac quaintance with Aunt Vootch and with Wintergreen's unpredictable, magical hat. George Gleason, Department of English, Southwest Missouri State Uni versity, Springfield

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