Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, by Linda Chapman and Steve Coll

Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, by Linda Chapman and Steve Coll (Harper Collins, 2009, middle grade, 326 pages). Published in the UK as Genie Us! (cover shown at right).

Four children (two brother and sister pairs, brought together by their parents' recent marriage) are removed from their pleasant lives in London and plunked down in a small country town where their parents are opening a used book store. Unhappy with the move, uncertain that they want to be a family, the four children wish they could go back to the way things used to be...

And then magic enters their lives, in the form of a book that promises to teach them how to become genies...and inside the book is a grumpy magical bookworm, who serves as their guide to the complicated intricacies of mastering genie magic. Mayhem and madness result when the children practice their wish giving and learn (the hard way) to master the magic. But then things take a more sinister turn, when it appears that there are other magic users looking for the genie guide book. Magic users who don't seem friendly. At all.

It's a light-hearted, enjoyably escapist book that I'm happy to recommend to anyone looking for Edward Eager read-alikes (who have already read Laurel Snyder's Any Which Wall), and indeed, it was written as an homage to E. Nesbit, who was Eager's inspiration. Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps doesn't have the depth of characterization that make Eager and Nesbit favorites of mine--the four children in this book don't dramatically transcend stock child archetype-ness (the brainy boy, the smart-alack boy, the little sister who is the sweetest one, the older sister who likes shopping). On the other hand, the magic-gone-awry scenes are well done, and Eager fans should find them very amusing in a pleasantly familiar way.

After reading Be a Genie in Six Easy Steps, which has cell phones and computer games, and is clearly set in the Now, I am wondering now just how old fashioned Eager seems to today's kids. When I first read him, back in the seventies (his books were published from 1954-1962) it didn't seem as though the stories were set in "the past," the way Nesbit's stories clearly were. My kids lead a life that some days seems to me a slighly badly done historical re-enactment of simpler times (we don't, for instance, have cell phones yet), so they are not a good source of data in this regard. I just asked my nine-year old, who happens to be home "sick" (the cough was very convincing this morning)--he said that the Eager books (he's read 4 of them) could be "in any time." I wonder how Be a Genie, with its clearly early 21st century technological references, will feel to readers in fifty years...


  1. Thanks for the review. I'm always on the look out for a new middle grade fantasy as so many are YA. I'm going to put this on my list to read.

  2. This sounds awesome! I'll be checking it out to add to my classroom library.


Free Blog Counter

Button styles