Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians by Mary Nash

I really don't like to read books out of order, but when it's an out of print children's book like Mary Nash's Mrs. Coverlet's Magicians, I didn't have much of a choice. While there were a few instances where it was clear that I was missing backstory, mostly this cute tale stood on its own.

Mrs. Coverlet is housekeeper, nanny, and cook extraordinaire. Her three charges, Malcolm, Molly, and the Toad Persever can be a bit of a handful, the Toad especially. After a delicious dessert of chocolate chip bread pudding one night that came about by accident, Molly enters Mrs. Coverlet's recipe into a cooking contest without her knowledge. At the same time, the Toad has found a forbidden horror comic and has clearly sent away for something off the back cover. When it turns out that Mrs. Coverlet has won the contest and a trip to New York, she won't leave the children home alone (their father is off on a business trip). It's only after the three agree that they will behave and accept their nosy, persnickety neighbor Miss Eva as a temporary babysitter, that she relents, accepts her prize and hies off to New York for a whirlwind publicity tour.

None of the three Persever children much likes Miss Eva but the Toad, in particular, loathes her. She makes them eat vegetables and do all sorts of other unpleasant non-kid-friendly things. So when she starts acting strangely and takes to her bed for no apparent reason, Molly and Malcolm know that the Toad is up to something.  Could it have something to do with the package the Toad got in the mail just after Miss Eva moved in?  But with Miss Eva safely ensconced in her bedroom, the children have no responsible adult looking after them. And when they discover that their father will be delayed well past Christmas and that Mrs. Coverlet's publicity tour will also run over the holiday, they set out to still make Christmas happen for the Toad.

This is a heartwarming little story with a delightful character in the Toad. The older siblings feel responsibility for the Toad and can come across as condescending to him but that just adds to the realistic feel of this actually unrealistic and magical tale, and the story itself is endearing. It definitely has the feel of a book from the past, a little sweet, a little old-fashioned. There are humorous situations and small worries but there's never any doubt that everything will come out right in the end. Perfect for a kid's story. Children who like the Penderwicks or Pippi Longstocking will appreciate Mrs. Coverlet's charges.

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