HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians
Author: Mary Nash
Illustrator: Garrett Price
Publisher: Little Brown, 1961
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Nash, Mary. Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians (published in 1961 by Little Brown and Company, Boston, MA; republished in 1962 by Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club, Columbus, OH). Mrs. Coverlet is the white-haired housekeeper for the Persever family of Loganbury. Mr. Persever is a vitamin company salesman but has inherited a tin mine and is on his way to New Zealand. He won’t be home for Christmas. Then Mrs. Coverlet’s recipe for Chocolate Stale Bread Delight gives her a first-round victory in a baking contest, and she has to go to New York to compete in the final Bake-Off, which also will be over Christmas. However thirteen year old Malcolm, ten year old Molly, and six year Theobold, known as the Toad, who has made a rather secretive purchase from a coupon cut out of the back of a lurid comic book, will not be left alone. Their neighbor Miss Eva Penalty will move right in with them.
This plan, approved reluctantly by Malcolm and Molly, is too much for Toad, who despises his somewhat priggish neighbor. Packing all six of his cats in a pillowcase, he leaves home. but Malcolm and Molly foil his run-away attempt, so he has to take, as he says, “other steps.” All of a sudden, Miss Penalty takes to her bed, leaving the children to prepare their own Christmas. Then Toad leads them to find the perfect Christmas tree. Finally, it snows a blizzard on Christmas—just as Toad prophesies—but only in Loganbury, which is too far south for snow. What is going on? How is the Toad involved in all this? And what will happen to Eva? This is actually book one in a series of three “Miss Coverlet” books by Mary Nash. The first is While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away, and the third is Mrs. Coverlet’s Detectives.
As to language, Toad uses a couple of common euphemisms (gollee and heck) a few times. I must admit that Toad’s rather selfish and spiteful behavior occasionally got on my nerves. And there are references to the use of “magic” (Toad’s Do-It-Yourself Book of Practical Witchcraft, including chapters entitled “Hexes and Evil Eyes” and “How to Make Your Enemies Powerless”) which some Bible believers oppose, especially in literature for children. However, given the fact that the book is obviously fiction with a touch of light fantasy, most people would have no problem with it, and I would for the most part consider it a harmless story which actually has a number of funny moments. Perhaps some of Toad’s actions could be used as starting points for conversations about how not to react in various situations.