________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 17 . . . . January 13, 2017


Genie in a Bottle.

Sarah Mlynowski.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2016.
157 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
ISBN 978-0-545-85102-2.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

**** /4



"This is a problem," I say.

"It really is," agrees Jonah.

We're still standing in the cave and I'm still holding the lamp. The now empty lamp.

"I guess this means no flying carpet," Jonah says.

"It means more than that," I say. "It means we have no magic genie! If we have no magic genie, then we can't uncurse our genie."

Fairy," my brother corrects. "Not genie."

Ugh. Drat. I did it again. I kicked at the ground. "Right. Sorry. We can't uncurse our
fairy Maryrose. And we have bigger problems than that. Without the genie of the lamp, the entire Aladdin story isn't going to happen. How is Aladdin supposed to get the princess to marry him if he's just a duckball-playing village guy? He can't! He's supposed to have all kinds of riches to win over her and the sultan." My heart starts beating really fast. "And without our genie, how are we supposed to get home?"

"On our flying carpet?" Jonah suggests.

"There is no flying carpet, Jonah! There is not magic at all! We are in serious trouble!"

Abby and Jonah live in the perfect home for kids who love adventure and fairytales: there's a mirror in their basement that, when knocked on three times at midnight, allows the siblings to walk through into a fairytale. They never know what fairy tale they'll find themselves in and usually go through the mirror simply for an adventure, but lately they've had a mission. They haven't seen Maryrose, the fairy who used to live in the mirror, in ages and think she's been cursed. No matter how hard they try to not change the story, Abby and Jonah, and sometimes their dog Prince, always manage to do something that makes it harder to get to 'happily ever after'.

      This time they've landed in Aladdin and, in minutes, Jonah's messed up the story: he accidentally gives Aladdin a bloody nose while playing duckball, a game like dodgeball, by accidentally sending the ball straight at Aladdin's face. When Aladdin goes home to treat his bloody nose, Abby knows it will be up to her, Jonah, and Prince to retrieve the lamp which holds a genie for the evil magician Dracul. In the original story, Dracul approaches Aladdin to do the job, but, since it's their fault he can't, Abby and Jonah volunteer despite how scared they are of the magician and what might be in the cave where the lamp is hidden. After convincing Dracul to give them his ring which also holds a genie, although a much less powerful one, Abby, Jonah and Prince head off on their mission.

      Abby realizes they may be able to use the genie to serve their own purposes as well: surely the genie in the story will be powerful enough to life the curse on Maryrose. When they finally have the lamp in their hands, Abby knows her first wish needs to be to help Maryrose. She very clearly asks the genie to "uncurse her genie". Jonah interrupts to ask if Abby's sure that's what she wants to wish, but he's shushed before he can point out her error. Abby can't understand why the genie's so excited until it's too late: the genie is free and not willing to grant the intended wish, and they've messed up the story again.

      They have one option left: they have Dracul's ring which also has a genie, Karimah. The genie's very young compared to the ancient genie Abby's just accidentally released and hasn't perfected her spells and magic powers yet, but she's a quick learner despite a few mistakes: when she tries to conjure something gold, a live golden squirrel appears; when she conjures buckets of fruit-shaped jewels the sultan demands if he's to let his daughter marry a poor village boy like Aladdin, they turn into real fruit. While the sultan isn't impressed, Abby, Johan, Karimah, Aladdin and Aladdin's mother make the best of it by sharing the fruit with poor families in the village. Karimah's magic isn't perfect, but it isn't wasted. The flying carpet she conjured for Jonah, which he was obsessed with, turns out to be a very useful use of a wish when an evil magician who also wants to marry the princess moves the princess and her castle miles away. They're able to find the princess before she's forced to marry the evil magician, and Karimah's magic has improved and strengthened enough that she can transport the castle back, almost to the exact spot it started, saving Aladdin from prison and convincing the Sultan that a poor village boy is worthy of his daughter's hand. Despite their intentional and unintentional changes to the story of Aladdin, Abby and Jonah find a way to end the story 'happily ever after'. However, they'll have to wait until their next adventure to help uncurse the fairy Maryrose who has disappeared from their magic mirror.

      Sarah Mlynowski has a talent for adding enjoyable twists to traditional fairy tales and winding them back to a 'happily ever after' ending, in this case in keeping with the original. Seeing Abby and Jonah work together to keep the fairy tale intact while dealing with the minor bickering that big sisters and little brothers can't avoid is both funny and relatable. Despite their arguing, Abby and Jonah show that siblings can get along and, no matter their age, overcome obstacles together, both in their fairy tale adventures and in their everyday lives. With characters who genuinely try to do what's right but, like everyone, find things sometimes don't work out or go as smoothly as anticipated, readers will cheer on Abby and Jonah as they try their hardest to keep the fairy tales intact, feel their pain when things go wrong, and will be as eager as Abby and Jonah to embark on their next fairy tale adventure.

Highly Recommended.

An MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate, Crystal Sutherland is a librarian living in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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