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The Magic Misfits, The Second Story: Magic Misfits, Book 2

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Magic Misfits, The Second Story: Magic Misfits, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Focus on family, friendship holds wild adventure together.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Demystifies some showmanship techniques used by mediums. Introduces Morse code and ciphers and offers opportunities to use them, and shows how to perform several magic tricks.

Positive Messages

What we learn through difficult ordeals can build strengths that serve us well. Try to let words roll off you. Be prepared that other people may not always react in ways you expect. People who love you see and appreciate you in all your complexity. It's OK to ask people what they want and how you can support them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Leila works hard on her abilities as an escape artist and is proud of how good she is. She's lovingly devoted to her dad and poppa, and turns to her friends in the Magical Misfits for comfort and encouragement. Her friends are solidly supportive when she's at her most vulnerable, and resourceful when called on to help. Her parents -- Mr. Vernon and the Other Mr. Vernon -- are engaged, warm parents, taking in Carter and providing a safe space for the Misfits. Mr. Vernon, a magician, offers guidance and some supervision but encourages the children to learn and discover on their own.

Violence & Scariness

Villains attack children and adults with billy clubs and a sword and kidnap them. One character has missing parents, another lost a parent in an accident.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Magic Misfits: The Second Story centers on a girl who was cruelly bullied in an orphanage before being adopted by two doting dads. Leila's yearning to learn more about her birth parents -- and why they abandoned her -- is the emotional core of the story, the second in the series by Neil Patrick Harris. Several characters deal with challenges: missing parents, a father killed in an accident, an emotionally abusive relationship. The story references bootlegging and speakeasies and showcases a brawl with armed thugs. But the tone of the story is warm and uplifting, anchored by Leila's close relationship with her dad and poppa and her diverse group of friends.

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What's the story?

THE MAGIC MISFITS: THE SECOND STORY puts the spotlight on Leila, a skilled escape artist who adores her adoptive fathers but has always wondered about who left her at an orphanage as an infant. The mysteries of her past collide with the present when Sandra, a famed psychic and childhood friend of Leila's dad, sweeps into Mineral Wells. Leila hopes this will be a chance to learn more about her dad's past, too. But the cost grows ever higher as Leila, her dad and poppa, and her magical friends are swept up in a mystery involving a long-ago fire, bootlegging tunnels, a rascal monkey, a gang of thugs, and a coveted ledger.

Is it any good?

Beneath the magic, mystery, and mayhem, Neil Patrick Harris' second Magic Misfits story is about identity and authenticity, and the unfaltering love and support that bind a strong family together. The Magic Misfits: The Second Story shifts to the viewpoint of Leila, an escape artist. Written by actor and showman Neil Patrick Harris (A Series of Unfortunate Events), the Misfits series delivers strong messages about finding strength and comfort in friendship while unspooling a wild and mysterious adventure.

The plot is patched together to prop up set pieces rather than build a strong story. And the writing is often clunky, with awkward interruptions to showcase magic tricks. But the story shines with a loving message of compassion and loving support for friends and family, through dark times and good. How-tos and secret messages to decode inspire readers to create some magic of their own. Sparkling illustrations by Lissy Marlin (Goldie Blox Rules the School!) add to the charm.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a family in The Magic Misfits: The Second Story. Why does Leila feel so torn about her birth parents? How are the Magic Misfits and the Emerald Ring like families?

  • Leila and her friends enjoy a fantastical setting in Mr. Vernon's magic shop. Do you have a special place to gather with your friends? 

  • Do you like figuring out how magic tricks are done, or do you prefer to just enjoy the show?

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For kids who love Family tales and books about magic

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