Author: Bruce Coville
Illustrator: Gary A. Lippincott
Jennifer Murdley has been having a worse-than-usual day–as though being plain weren’t enough, her best friend spilled her secret, the whole school was teasing her, and then Sharra and her cronies started chasing her. Desperate to escape, Jennifer found herself on streets she didn’t recognize, winding up in the shop of S. Elives, seller of things magical. And, like so many others who find themselves in Mr. Elives’ shop, Jennifer finds herself leaving with an unexpected purchase–in her case, a toad. What she didn’t know at the time is that this toad talks (calls himself Bufo), has an attitude, and might be rather a challenge to handle. . . . He might even change Jennifer’s world.
Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop books are always a treat to read, and Jennifer Murdley’s Toad is no exception. This story is filled with wonder and a sense of the unexpected. It’s also a great study of the concept of true beauty–and a fantastic retelling of the classic Toads and Diamonds fairy tale. It was unexpected to find a Magic Shop book that was a retelling, but for this story it really worked well. The characters are fun, and the growth Jennifer goes through is inspiring. Plus, the story’s just good fun and a grand adventure. I think Jennifer Murdley’s Toad is an excellent fantasy, particularly for late elementary to middle-school readers, although even as an adult, I find it very enjoyable.