The Adventures of Vin Fiz

Common Sense Media says

Story of magical plane fails to take flight.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

This is a blond, blue-eyed world, in which only the bandits have ethnic features, and gender roles are clear and traditional. But siblings do work together to stop crime and save lives.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's nothing to be concerned about here, aside from a little subtle ethnic and gender stereotyping. Siblings work together to stop crime and save lives. An author's note tells about the original Vin Fiz, the Wright brothers' plane.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Casey and Lacey Nicefolk live on an herb farm in Castroville, California. A mysterious itinerant farmhand leaves them a magical gadget that makes toys real.


They first use it to make a toy tractor into a real one so their father can use it on the farm. Then Casey turns a model of the Vin Fiz, a plane built by the Wright brothers that was the first to fly across the country, into a real plane, and he and Lacey decide to fly to New York.

Along the way they discover that the plane has a mind of its own, can understand commands, and assorted other bits of magic conveniently revealed when they're needed. Together they foil two gangs of robbers, stop a runaway train, prevent a shipwreck, rescue girls about to go over Niagara Falls, and have other adventures on the way to the East Coast.


An author's note tells about the original Vin Fiz.

Is it any good?


Clive Cussler is a well-known author of adult books. But, as often happens when adult writers try to make the transition to kid's books, he underestimates the difficulty -- and his audience. The premise is fantastic enough (kids use a magical plane to stop crime and save lives), but the tone is condescending at best. The story is filled with cutesy names (Ever and Ima Nicefolk, Stoke and Blaze Firepit, etc.), cutesy phrases ("in less time than it takes to say 'dingle, fingle, gingle ...'"), and logical holes big enough to fly a biplane through.

Cussler has a habit of didactically explaining some of his vocabulary. Worst of all, however, is the ending, which reads as if the author just lost interest in his own story. Of course his readers may have lost interest long before that. This may have worked as a bedtime story for Cussler's grandchildren, but as a book, it's weak.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the very early example of product placement that's demonstrated in the book. Why would a soda company pay to have its name on an airplane? Would you be tempted by buy a product if you saw it on a cool machine? What kinds of product placement do you see today? What do you think of this kind of marketing?

Book details

Author:Clive Cussler
Illustrator:William Farnsworth
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:March 19, 2006
Number of pages:167
Read aloud:7
Read alone:8

This review of The Adventures of Vin Fiz was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old April 1, 2009

It was good

I read the entire book, and I enjoyed it. And I have my own copy.
Parent of a 7 year old Written byStory Lady for ... May 7, 2010

Vin Fiz Loved by 2nd Graders

Story Lady for 2nd grade has found kids love having this story read to them (3 years of classes now). They particularly like seeing pictures of the real Vin Fiz in the Smithsonian after they have heard the story. Story is kids-level action adventure. It includes a magical box and plane, otherwise there is no reason any parent should be concerned about this book. As usual for Cussler, there is a hint of history mixed with an adventurous tale; this time just right for kids. Looking forward to his 2010 children's book adventure about the race boat Hotsy Totsy, also featuring the Nicefolk children introduced in Vin Fiz..


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