Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Disappearing act by James Maloney

Disappearing Act.  This book has it all!  An intriguing plot.  A very recognizable Australian setting. Magic and mystery. History and flashbacks. Love and loathing. Alchemy and science. Greed and the urgent search for truth and justice.  All of this is contained in just 181 pages!

Matt Cooper finds a book in a language he does not recognize with detailed drawings showing the process for a series of magic tricks. Matt tries out the tricks, simple ones at first, and discovers he has a talent.  When he visits a city dentist with his mother he sees an old man writing phrases in chalk on the footpath.  He has no idea what this writing says but he recognizes the letters from his magic book and so he takes a piece of chalk and completes the phrase (see below).  The old man is ecstatic.  "I've waited so long - a whole lifetime."

The next chapter of Disappearing Act sees the action switch to 1946.  We meet Mattheus Coperneau, a magician who has been given the honour of presenting a special performance before the royal family of Montilagus.

"Europe is not one country, but dozens of them.  Everyone has heard of Germany and France and Italy, but if you study the map closely you will see tiny specks among the larger ones, like pebbles in a rock wall.  These countries were never important enough to deserve a king and so they make do with princes.  That's why they are called principalities."

In a grand finale to his magic show Mattheus makes the Royal Sceptre disappear.  Naturally the second half of this trick should mean the sceptre reappears to the sound of great relief and applause but on this occasion the trick has failed and the sceptre is gone.  Magic is not to blame.  This is a crime but with no one else to accuse Mattheus is sent to the dungeon.  Chapters in this book now alternate between Australia 2011 and Montilagus in 1889.  At this earlier time Prince Edvord of Montilagus sees power coming from gold.  He enlists the help of a scientist called Joachim Tassisalus and an alchemist Augustine Rey.  Joachim knows alchemy is just trickery but the prince is determined there must be a way to turn ordinary metals into gold.

Look closely at these names Matthew Cooper and Mattheus Coperneau.  The story of Joachim and his love of Princess Agneta is also linked with Matthew Cooper but I don't want to go into these details and spoil the terrific twist at the end of this complex and highly rewarding read.

I will make one of my predictions that this book will be short listed for our CBCA awards in 2015. I do hope I am right!

Here is a set of teaching notes.  If you enjoy this book you might also look for The book without Words by Avi,   This book also reminded me of The Medici Curse. You can read more about James Moloney here.

Only the heart knows magic is real.

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