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Book Review: Mabel Gray and the Wizard Who Swallowed the Sun

Mabel Gray and the Wizard Who Swallowed the Sun. Clayton Smith. Dapper Press, March 23, 2015, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 232 Pages.

Reviewed by Vicky Edwards.

Mabel Gray is a spunky, unflappable, compelling adolescent girl with a desire to forego a life of anonymity in an orphanage by becoming “A Person of High Station.” If she becomes a “Person of High Station,” can becoming “A Lady of High Station” be far from reach?

Not if author Clayton Smith has anything to do with it. Mabel Gray and the Wizard Who Swallowed the Sun is an imaginative romp around a fantastical world of wizards, talking statues, skeletons, a Grandfather Tree, and various other nonhuman creatures with very human abilities to help or to frustrate our heroine. Mabel’s mission is to find the three keys that can unlock The Boneyard Compendium, a book of powerful spells stolen by a wizard.

The story is engrossing, and the settings are either charming or ominous (but not too frightening for a pre-teen to teen). Our heroine is smart; adults will appreciate how Mabel’s vocabulary is clever and entertaining, and should inspire readers to use higher-level words than what they usually get from books that are geared to this age level. The proper names are wonderfully imaginative, from Mabel’s home at St. Crippleback’s Home for Waifs and Strays to the wizard Emerys Croup and the head of the Elderary named Elder Alder. There are also the Good Witch, the Bad Witch, and the Witch of Neutral Position.

The tone of this book, though, is what sets it apart from most. It is whimsical and never takes itself seriously—which means that even though a young girl is in serious peril, you may keep turning the pages quickly to find out how she will get out of it, but it’s all in good fun and you do know that she will be just fine in the end.

The omniscient narrator often directly engages the reader (after charming little side stories, the narrator admits “but I digress”). One of these digressions includes instructions on how to use a flashlight in a dark forest to minimize your chances of being spotted by creatures, although you are forewarned that they will be coming for you, at which point you need to “run as fast as you can back to the safety of your house, for you are in grave danger.”

That unusual use of the second person pronoun pops up often in the book, further engaging the reader. The narrator imagines the reader tucked into bed with the book and nibbling on a chocolate biscuit. Mabel sees a creature assemble itself out of its bones, and the narrator clues us in that, “If you have ever seen it, you know it is quite a shock.” The device is effective and often very, very funny.


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