The Magician's Bird: A Tuckernuck Mystery, Book 2

Book review by
Blair Jackson, Common Sense Media
The Magician's Bird: A Tuckernuck Mystery, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Funny tween-sleuths mystery more complex than first.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Besides explaining some of the behind-the-scenes workings of school administrations and their relationship to communities, The Magician's Bird also delves lightly into organized crime and the influence of newspapers and other media, in the past and today. Readers also learn a little about professional magicians' work.

Positive Messages

Teamwork, ingenuity, and dedication are required to achieve some goals. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bud and Laurie are tireless in their quest to clear the name of school founder Maria Tutweiler, and they aren't too proud to enlist the help of others. Though a certain amount of scheming and fibbing is necessary (if only adults weren't so dumb and gullible!), it's all for a noble cause -- or a few causes, actually.

Violence

Mild description of a bloody murder scene decades ago; comical references to an imagined "bloated corpse."

Sex
Language

A character is described as "using cuss-jar words."

Consumerism

Just a few mentions, sprinkled descriptively: World of Warcraft, Post-it notes, the TV show CSI, Krispy Kreme donuts, eBay, Jell-O.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reginald the janitor smokes a cigarette. In a headline, a newspaper accuses a teacher of being a "bootlegger," but it's not explained. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that THE MAGICIAN'S BIRD: A TUCKERNUCK MYSTERY is a charming and funny sequel to Emily Fairlie's The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck, but it also works as a stand-alone story. (That said, the first book introduces most of the characters who appear in the second and provides more detail about them, as well as more background about their school, Tuckernuck Hall.) This time, middle school sleuths Laurie and Bud become embroiled in a mystery involving organized crime and a grisly murder committed decades ago, but there's no actual violence in the story. There's plenty of gentle mocking of kids, teachers, and other adults, but it's also a compelling and suspenseful mystery about a long-gone magician and his most famous prop.

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What's the story?

THE MAGICIAN'S BIRD picks up shortly after the story told in The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck, the first book in the series. Seventh graders Bud and Laurie, who solved the mystery of Tuckernuck school founder Maria Tutweiler's hidden treasure, are tasked with devising a scavenger hunt for the beginning of the school year. In their search for creative hiding places for clues, they stumble across a secret world of hidden passageways and a mysterious room under the school. This discovery coincides with a sensational revelation by notorious newspaper editor and Tuckernuck Hall-hater Walker LeFranco (who tried to shut down the school in the first book) that Maria Tutweiler had led -- as his paper put it -- ''A Filthy Life of Crime: Bootlegger! Counterfeiter! Thief! Murderer!\" Bud and Laurie refuse to believe LeFranco's claim that Tutweiler murdered Marchetti the Magician decades earlier and vow to clear her good name by solving this cold case, with a little help from their friends.

Is it any good?

The Magician's Bird is a breezy, fun read, and the story is more engrossing and complex than The Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck. It's also nice to see more characters involved in solving the mystery. Again, author Emily Fairlie effectively puts us inside the heads of her tween protagonists, Bud and Laurie, as well as a couple of classmates they bring on-board to help them solve the mystery. Fairlie's narration usually reflects the kids' point of view: "Misti groaned. Candy Winkle wasn't the last person she wanted to see right now, but she was close. Maybe third from last, right after that weird clown from Misti's fifth birthday and Chuck Howard from third grade, who used to stick his pen in his ear and then suck on it."

As in the first book, the narrative is peppered with characters' "mental lists," such as Laurie's when she's mad at Bud over the planning of a scavenger hunt: "Good Reasons Not to Kill Bud Wallace: 1) Prison seventh grade probably even worse than regular seventh grade. 2) Murder definitely goes on permanent record. 3) Would have to come up with scavenger hunt ideas alone, which means dealing with Miss Abernathy. 4) Lots of good possibilities for revenge, which are not possible if he's dead." There are also hilarious communications between principal Martin Van Winkle and his annoying wife, Candy -- who call each other Snookie Bear, Honey Bunny, and Lambikins -- as well as texts between students, old and current newspaper headlines and stories, and even a tease for the Channel 7 News: "HIDDEN DANGERS IN YOUR COMMUNITY! Does going to a school founded by a murderer put your child at risk? The answer may surprise you. Investigative report tonight at 10." 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bud and Laurie use email and texting to secretly communicate about situations and strategies. How would the mystery be different if it took place before computers and cell phones?

  • Do you think that Bud, Laurie, Misti, and Calliope are wise to try to solve the mystery without involving adults? Why, or why not?

  • If you were planning a scavenger hunt in your school, what are some of the cool places you could hide clues?

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