HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Double or Nothing
Author: Marc Talbert
Illustrator: Toby Gowing
Publisher: iUniverse, republished 2001
ISBN-13: 978-0803708327 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0803708327 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0595150090 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0595150098 Paperback
Language level: 1
(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
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: General youth fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Talbert, Marc. Double or Nothing (Published in 1990 by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Books U.S.A. Inc., 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Nine year old Sam lives with his parents, Seth and Marjorie. His best friend is Charles, whose mother watches him during the day while his dad and mom are at work. It is July, and his mother’s brother, Uncle Frank who was a magician known as Phantasmagoric Frank, has died, leaving Sam with a tremendous sense of loss and grief. His favorite uncle leaves his boxes of magic tricks and equipment—the the tools of the magician’s trade—to his nephew. Sam practices and practices the tricks his uncle had taught him until he is ready to perform in public. He decides to give a one-man magic show as Exclamazing Sam in the park on his uncle’s birthday as a present to him, knowing full well that he is not allowed to go there alone.
Can Sam remember the tricks? Does anyone pay attention to him? And what will happen if he gets caught? The basic theme of this book is how a child can learn to cope with the death of a loved one. It is a cute and touching story. The only thing that I don’t like about it is all the lying that Sam has to do—to his mom and dad, to Charles, and to Charles’s mother—in order to get to the park. He is properly punished and “Part of him felt sorry that he’d tricked his parents and lied to Mrs. Goodman. But he knew that if he were given another chance he’d probably do it again.” Even his mother later tells him that she probably would have done the same thing. Otherwise, this is a book about magic—not only the kind magicians perform, but also the magic of believing in dreams and in oneself, and of love.