She might not be as photogenic as Harry Potter, but the charming Molly Moon makes up the difference in pluck in this somewhat similar story of a put-upon English orphan who finds that she has abilities beyond her wildest imagining.
Georgia Byng's debut novel has already swept to such success that it's due for translation in over 20 countries, with a movie version following close behind (produced by Harry Potter's David Heyman, natch). And with such a genuinely likeable (if straightforward) story and heroine, it's not hard to see why. Molly Moon struggles to survive in Hardwick House, an orphanage apparently run by and for caricatures--the beastly mistress Miss Adderstone and her bad-tempered pug, the muscly Gordon Boils (who tattooed "KING GORD" on the fingers of his fists with a compass and ink), creepy Roger Fibbin with his "sharp nose and cold, spying eyes." But as all wish-fulfillment adventures must go, Molly's life is changed one fateful day, as an arcane book draws out her special talent--she can hypnotize anybody to do anything she wants!
Byng makes good use of her otherwise mundane cast with plenty of wry asides (like Molly's fixation on the transformative promise of advertising), great running jokes (especially the metamorphosis of the orphanage's hard-boiled cook into a proud Italian capocuoco), some clever plot sleight-of-hand, and ample funny descriptions (as when Molly finds herself in the Royal Suite at the Waldorf: "She wasn't sure about the Jacuzzi. It was like ten monsters farting in her bath all at once."). (Ages 9 to 12) --Paul Hughes
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6--The melodramatic tale of a much-abused orphan who discovers a hidden talent and escapes from a brutal home life may seem familiar, but author Georgia Byng has created a character who is much larger than the talent she unleashes (HarperCollins, 2003). Molly Moon's life at Hardwick House for Orphans is terrible. Things seem their darkest when her best friend Rocky is adopted and leaves for America. Molly occasionally hides in the library, and one day she stumbles upon a book of hypnotism and learns that all of the qualities for which her classmates have teased her are actually assets to a hypnotist. Molly cleverly hones her skills and hypnotizes her way to Broadway, fame, and fortune. Evil Professor Nockman knows of the book's powers, and will stop at nothing to use the book and Molly to achieve his evil goals. Molly, a strong and principled character, never loses sight of what really matters in life, and the final chapters find her back at Hardwick House, bravely leading the other children to a better way of life. Kate Burton brings the rags-to-riches story to life with a broad range of voices and accents, from a cultured British tone to a gruff Chicago snarl. Her British pronunciations add genuineness to the text, and her soft and introspective voice of Molly makes her an even more sympathetic character, contrasting well with the other characters. Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Eventsand the Harry Potter books will appreciate this plucky little orphan, and will hope for a sequel. David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter movies, has bought the book's motion picture rights.--MaryAnn Karre, Horace Mann Elementary School, Binghamton, NY
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