Published by Aladdin Paperbacks on September 1, 2003
It all starts when Russell Crannaker buys a "monster's ring" from weird old Mr. Elives. Russell is sure the ring is just a silly magic trick -- but he follows the instructions anyway, and slips it on his finger. Then he whispers the magic chant, twists the ring once, and suddenly he's sprouting horns! Hair covers his face and hands. Russell has become...a monster! Russell quickly learns how to change back and forth from human to monster. But he hasn't paid enough attention to the directions, and when he puts on the ring on the night of a full moon, and twists it three times, Russell realizes he's gone too far....
As Halloween draws near I’ve been thinking more and more about my childhood Halloween traditions. School Halloween parties, trick or treat, and of course the telling of supernatural tales. When I was young there were two series that I loved to read at Halloween, BUNNICULA by James Howe and the MAGIC SHOP series by Bruce Coville.
Book One in the Magic Shop Series is THE MONSTERS RING. It is also the shortest book in the series, and runs only around 2 hours on audio. A fun little note about the audiobook: The MONSTER’S RING was produced by the author’s own audiobook company, Full Cast Audio. Bruce himself reads the main narration for the book, while a full cast performs the character bits.
This story is short and sweet, but perfect for the Halloween season. It takes place just before Halloween and is full of magic, monsters, as well as plenty of every day kid problems. Bullies, family problems, and school trouble it only more complicated when you can turn into a monster.
The thing I love most about this first book is how it just jumps into the world, like a disappearing Magic Shop that sells real magic is totally normal and needs no explanation. It gives you fun, not logic. Each book adds onto the world but has its own characters and own story.
Now MONSTER’S RING might not be the strongest in the series, but that doesn’t mean anything. Coville balances real problems with the supernatural elements perfectly. Kids enjoy a lesson on bullies while exploring being a monster, responsibility while playing with magic, and family issues while talking to a couple of rats. If I had a few good foundation lessons to impart, this is exactly how I would do it.
Coville’s books have always been magical masterpieces, but this series in particular has a perminant place in my heart. I don’t care how old you are, these books are entirely worth the read. Though this is technically the first book, THE MAGIC SHOP series can really be read in any order. After all, JENNIFER MURDLEY’S TOAD actually happens chronologically before THE MONSTER’S RING, and the only way you know is because two characters in this book are created in that one. Yet, this remains book one. And if you’re going to start the series, why not begin at the beginning?
What’s your favorite childhood favorite? Have you read the Magic Shop books? Which is your favorite? Share your answers in the comments below.
From my shelf to yours,