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The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician: Matthew Porter

Book: The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician
Author: Matthew Porter
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician is part of Matthew Porter's Monkey World Adventure series (though I haven't read anything else in this series). A magician monkey named Oscar is nominated by a magazine for the title of Magician of the Year. However, another monkey, the Milton the Magnificent, is also nominated, and very badly wants to win. Milton makes a variety of attempts to cheat and knock Oscar out of the competition. Oscar, through a combination of luck and an easy-going nature, triumphs for a time. But then Milton gets truly creative in his sabotage efforts.... 

I'm not a fan of coincidence in stories ("luckily" this good thing happened). But the five and six year olds on whom I tried out this book has no such issues. I would say, though, that The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician was right at the limit of their comprehension, in terms of the plot and particularly of the vocabulary. There is hypnosis involved, along with various nefarious tricks. The vocabulary includes words like "levitated", "encore", "impeccable", and "sabotage." I found myself having to stop and define some of the words (though not all - I don't like to break up the flow of a read-aloud too much). Here's a snippet:

"Thinking he was rehearsing a new
routine, Oscar became befuddled by
Milton's mysterious monocle.

Under the monocle's spell, Oscar the
magician stole the priceless Blue Diamond
Necklace from the city museum."

As an adult reader, I quite enjoyed the combination of strong vocabulary and alliteration here. But younger children will likely not have the patience for The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magnificent. I would recommend it more for first or second graders. 

I also liked Matthew Porter's textured, colorful illustrations. Both monkeys have strongly delineated personalities. My five-year-old knew, on page two, just from the look of him, that Milton was going to be the bad guy. Some combination of his hair and mustache, I think. The monkeys are all quite human-looking, particularly their eyes, which makes the book more accessible, I think. The images hit a nice sweet spot between amusing detail and simple, bold colors.

I think that The Rise and Fall of Oscar the Magician could make a nice classroom read-aloud for second graders. The cover image is eye-catching, with a blindfolded magician riding a unicycle over a frayed tightrope, and I think that kids will be intrigued by the story. Fans of Porter's work will certainly want to add this one to their collections. 

Publisher: Little Bigfoot (@Sasquatchbooks) 
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).