The Money Spell by Adrienne Vincent Sutton, illustrated by D.L. Tucker
Book description: Isaiah needs money for the latest and greatest video game- now! Can his grandmother’s magic money spell help him create $150 out of thin air? Or is the “magic” that he makes all on his own the best way to get what he wants?
Sutton is back with a second book that is just as good as the first. I reviewed her first book, Bad Hair Day, a few years ago and was quite taken with it. Her latest is geared much younger, an early chapter book. Isaiah and his friends have been down at the local game store and they all want to go in on buying the latest football game. They decide to split the $150 price tag between them, each agreeing to come up with $50.
Right off the bat this story is going to resonate with kids. For some it might be the latest shoes or clothes they want, others the latest toy or game. Whatever it is, we’ve all been there. It’s particularly endearing and clever that the boys come up with a plan to share the game and its cost. But while getting $50 from his friend’s parents seems likely, Isaiah isn’t so sure his parents will just fork it over. And his gut instinct is right, Mom reminds him that he’s gotten a lot from them lately and she’s not too keen on giving him more. I appreciated the middle class sentiment here. I think it will be relatable for a lot of kids whose parents have enough, but want their kids to appreciate what they’ve given them.
In the meantime Isaiah is bummed and he keeps comparing himself to his friends who he is sure will just be given the money. Dejected he mopes into the kitchen where grandma approaches him with a proposal: get a large jar, add some money, and say a spell. Isaiah is super skeptical. A spell? Really, Grandma? But he’s also a bit desperate and so he goes for it. The next month shows Isaiah that the spell works, but maybe not quite in the way he expected it to.
There is clearly a message here, but Sutton doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it. Nor does she shame Isaiah for wanting the latest video game. That’s refreshing. Isaiah ultimately learns that with a little hard work, some saving, and digging around in the couch cushions he can pretty easily pull some money together, even if it takes time. Adults reading this aloud will be in on Grandma’s “magic” from the start, but young readers will learn right alongside Isaiah that money doesn’t exactly magically appear, but it can be made.
The snappy dialog between the boys sounds spot on and kids will laugh along with Isaiah, Monty, and Terrell as they laugh and argue together. As I said, the situation is super relatable for kids and I think plenty of children will see themselves in the story. They might even get a jar out and try the spell out for themselves.
The book includes perfect little spot illustrations scattered throughout. While the text is simple enough for early chapter book readers and the pictures do a little lifting in helping tell the story, they primarily give the reader a break and enhance the picture of the characters in your mind. Grandma dancing is the absolute best. I wish my own grandma had been as awesome as Isaiah’s!
The book is only about 40 pages long and is broken into four chapters. The text itself is large and well-spaced on the pages with plenty of white space. While it’s very well written, the vocabulary is not too difficult. The form factor is closer to the size of an easy reader, which feels way less intimidating than some of the smaller, longer chapter books. An attractive cover with Isaiah and his friends and his grandma make this a good one to put out on display and allow kids to pick up off the shelf. Certainly a solid second grade reader could handle this and by third grade most kids should be fine to read it on their own. But don’t discount read alouds! I read it through on my own first and then throughly enjoyed reading it to my nine year old.
I hope Sutton keeps going writing and publishing her books. They are really well worth having on the shelf in the classroom, home, and library. She creates realistic stories with memorable and relatable characters.
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